According to organizers, the nationwide Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is set to begin on December 14. Therefore, volunteers who wish to assist in the tally are invited to take part in the campaign, which will unfold until early January across all of the cities in the United States, and numerous municipalities.
The Christmas Bird Count, which is now considered to be the most extensive and long-lasting project involving amateur scientists, debuted as a tradition back in 1900.
It was spearhead by Frank Chapman, acclaimed ornithologist and founder of the bi-monthly magazine Bird-Lore (currently known as Audubon).
Christmas time on the North American continent had previously been marked by bird hunting competitions, whose only purpose was to crown the one whose skills had allowed him to catch the largest amount of quarry, no matter how endangered or exceptional the feathered creatures had been.
Chapman suggested that instead of slaying birds during the winter holidays, people should simply count them and marvel at their beauty and diversity.
As a result, he led a team of 27 bird watchers that year so as launch the first avian census across Canada and the United States.
In order to make the tally more attractive to the general public, Chapman turned it into a contest, but this time the winner was the one who had been able to count, categorize and keep track of the largest number of avian species.
The event gained more and more visibility, as the number of participants grew exponentially. For example, during the campaign held in the winter of 2014-2015, over 70,000 volunteers were involved in the count, across approximately 2,250 observation spots.
Through their efforts, 68,753,007 birds have been recorded, and the information that was collected during the counts served as basis for several academic papers regarding avian population trends, as influenced by environmental factors.
In fact, the focus has shifted from seeing the census as a competition, to perceiving it as a means of determining bird abundance, in order to assist conservation efforts.
By keeping a close eye on the density and size of certain bird populations it is possible to discover which feathered creatures have been experiencing a reduction in their population, and which are faced with extinction.
Those wishing to participate in the 116th edition of this event, are more than welcome to sign up, by accessing Audubon’s registration page for the Christmas Bird Count (http://netapp.audubon.org/cbc/public/).
Initially, an e-mail address will be required, and afterwards would-be bird watchers will have to choose which observation circle they will be assigned to.
Each section covers 15 miles in diameter, and there are pre-established circuits that the volunteers will have to cross, so as to report every avian creature encountered throughout a day.
Aside from keeping a record of all such sightings, observers will also have to write down all the birds that they have heard in that area during the same time interval.
Moreover, they will be required to refer not just to individual species, but also to the total number of birds which they have identified during the day.
While the project permits more experienced bird watchers to show their acumen and skill at identifying a wide variety of species, even novice bird aficionados are invited to join the tally, as long as they are part of a group where at least one expert is present.
Alternatively, bird enthusiasts whose homes are located within one of the designated circles can reach out to census compilers, and keep records of the winged creatures that have come to their garden birdfeeders.
Participants will not only lend a helping hand to the preservation of wildlife, but also widen their own knowledge regarding the avian kingdom.
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