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A Christmas-time tradition that's for the birds

 Alison Wagner, front, and Jeannie Elias look for birds in Fayston, Vt., Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, as they take part in The National Audubon Society's an...
 From top, a Pine Siskin, American goldfinch and Black-capped chickadee sit on a feeder in Fayston, Vt., Friday, Dec. 19, 2008. From Dec. 14 through J...

Christmas Bird Count

Alison Wagner, front, and Jeannie Elias look for birds in Fayston, Vt., Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, as they take part in The National Audubon Society's an...

Christmas Bird Count

From top, a Pine Siskin, American goldfinch and Black-capped chickadee sit on a feeder in Fayston, Vt., Friday, Dec. 19, 2008. From Dec. 14 through J...

It's a Christmas time tradition dating to 1900, and it has nothing to do with Jesus or Santa. It's literally for the birds.
In the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count, which runs through Jan. 5, birders from around the Western Hemisphere head out on one designated day each to keep track of the birds they see and hear in a 15-mile (24-kilometer) diameter circle. The tallies, compiled into a database, are used by Audubon to track bird population trends.
In Vermont, about 10 teams fanned out this month in the Mad River Valley and Northfield, creeping along the back roads with their car windows and sun roofs open, listening and looking.
By lunchtime, a team of three in Fayston had spotted three hard-to-find brown creepers, a ruffed grouse in a tree top, and two tufted titmouses. So far, so good.
"You don't see them that often," said Jeannie Elias, 54, of Fayston, referring to the titmouses. "I've seen two in eight years at my house up the road."
The Christmas Bird Count was started in 1900 by Frank Chapman, the editor of Audubon magazine, as an alternative to another kind of hunt, in which teams went out on Christmas Day and shot the most game they could.
Since then, the bird tally has grown every year, with 60,000 volunteers last year counting nearly 70 million individual birds in all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands.
This year's started Dec. 14.
Since the counts take place on different days in different places, volunteers can take part in more than one. People fight to get on the Champlain Islands or the Burlington bird count in Vermont because they're near Lake Champlain, said Bridget Butler, 38, of St. Albans.
"You get all these cool ducks and loons," she said.
So far, data have shown a decline in populations of some common birds _ such as the northern bobwhite and boreal chickadee _ over the last 40 years.
Audubon plans to release a global warming report based on the winter range of birds from the Christmas bird count in February.
Counters notice changes in birds from year to year, some related to weather. But weather didn't deter the counters from coming out in 15-degree (minus 9 Celsius) temperatures.
"I just love being out birding in the winter. It's just such a fun group of people to be around because we're all so different but we have this one common ally, which is that we love birds," said Alison Wagner, 54, of Huntington.
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On the Net:
http://www.audubon.org


Updated : 2021-04-17 23:50 GMT+08:00