Tired of fighting crowds at the mall? Want to see a real partridge in a pear tree? Join thousands of other volunteers in the National Audubon Society’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the 107th annual Christmas Bird Count.
“Christmas Bird Counts are a good way for beginners to learn birdwatching from experienced birders,” said Laurel Barnhill, wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Section. “Anyone interested in birds can participate. The most important thing is having eyes out in the field. Even people who are feeder watchers within the count area can participate.”
South Carolina’s Christmas bird counters are among the more than 50,000 volunteers participating in the National Audubon Society’s 107th Christmas Bird Count Dec. 14-Jan. 5, the world’s largest volunteer survey of its type. This marks the 107th anniversary since 27 conservationists decided to protest the traditional bird shoot, and instead of killing birds with guns, they counted them on Christmas Day 1900. The event originated as a protest to the traditional holiday “side hunt” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and animals in one day.
For information on bird counts in your area, visit the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count; check the Carolina Bird Club; or call the DNR at (803) 734-3886 in Columbia.
This year, nearly 2,000 individual counts are scheduled to take place throughout the Americas. The data, 100 percent volunteer generated, have become a crucial part of the federal government’s natural history monitoring database. During Christmas Bird Counts, all birds within a 7.5-mile radius are identified by species and counted during a 24-hour period. Most counts begin at 7 or 8 a.m. and last the entire day, but participants can leave at their convenience if they make prior arrangements with the trip leader. Barnhill advises bringing a lunch and drink since many bird counts are conducted in rural areas. Dress for the weather.
Count participants are asked to pay a $5 fee to defray costs of the program; observers 18 years of age and under count for free. Count results and participants’ names will be published by the National Audubon Society. A list of the counts, and contacts for more information, includes:
2006-2007 South Carolina Christmas Bird Counts