It is that time of year again when trees, the few we have here in Kansas, begin losing their leaves, the temperature drops, and snow shovels and driveway salt become a hot commodity at local stores as we prepare for the upcoming winter months. It is also the time of year where bird enthusiasts prepare for one of the coolest citizen science opportunities available throughout the year. Citizen science is where volunteers, many of whom have no formal training in science, are able to work with scientists to observe, measure, and compute data to accomplish research goals that would not be possible without their help. From December 14th through the first week of January, families, scientists, students and bird enthusiasts of all ages will take part in Christmas Bird Counts (CBC).
The CBC actually arose as an alternative suggestion for the Christmas side hunts that used to take place where people competed to see how many birds they could kill. An ornithologist, a person who studies birds, proposed the idea of counting the birds instead of killing them and the rest is history. For over 100 years now, volunteers have been braving varying weather conditions to take part in the longest running wildlife census to date.
During the count, volunteers are put into small groups and conduct count circles where they count and record every bird they see on their assigned route. Results of these counts are then used across the entire US for assessing conservation efforts and tracking overall health and population numbers of bird species. As you can see, this count is very important for a number of reasons and always proves to be an enjoyable learning experience. It is a great way for beginner bird watchers to learn from more experienced bird watchers.
If this count sounds like something you would love to be a part of, you are in luck. About 40 different CBCs are held annually across Kansas, including ones at Cheyenne Bottoms on December 15 and Quivira National Widlife Refuge on December 14. To find out more about these and other CBC’s across Kansas, check www.ksbirds.org.
Come out to the KWEC on Thursday, December 15th from 8:00am until 5:00pm to participate in the Cheyenne Bottoms CBC with bird professionals and enthusiasts. All are welcome to attend, but participation for at least half of the day is recommended. You will even be treated to a delicious lunch courtesy of the KWEC and The Nature Conservancy. Please call the KWEC at 620-786-7456 for more information.
Still wanting to know more about the Christmas Bird Count? More information can be found at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.