The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is
like an Easter egg hunt for adults. But instead of
hunting for chocolate eggs, teams of birdwatchers
congregate in Castle, Spanish and Moab Valley to
record all birds seen or heard. Like a party of jays
or maybe a siege of herons, these birders leave no
The CBC started 108 years ago by Frank Chapman and
the fledgling Audubon Society. Their count was in
opposition to a traditional holiday event called
the “Side Hunt.” That avian affair consisted
of blasting away at birds, then counting the carnage.
Fortunately, the nonconsumptive version flourished;
today over 2,000 counts are held across North America
and over 52,000 birders participate.
Today, the National Audubon Society still sponsors
the event and the data provides a snapshot of winter
bird populations. It also provides a fun and entertaining
avenue for birders and nature-enthusiasts to spend
a day in the field, getting to know their feathered
winter residents and neighbors alike. Nothing like
staring at your neighbor’s front yard with
binoculars to really get to know them.
This year’s Moab CBC will actually be held
next year – January 5, 2008. There is a two-week
window in which the count may take place and the
Moab group chose the first Saturday in January.
The beauty of the CBC is that all birds are considered
equal. Flocks of starlings, nasty house sparrows
and other LBJs (Little Brown Jobbers) are all dutifully
recorded. At any other time of year birders would
probably overlook these species, but not during the
coveted Count Week.
Count Week is the seven-day period that straddles
Count Day. Birds only observed during the three days
prior and the three days after Count Day are recorded
for this time period. Hopefully any rarities or oddities
are relocated on Count Day, but sometimes not. Conversely,
species missed on Count Day may be searched for during
the final three days of the count. And birders don’t
like to send in their results to the national compiler
without the common species checked off.
The Moab Bird Club sponsors the local count. Team
leaders are assigned to predetermined areas and they
in turn roust others to join them. Even inexperienced
birders are welcomed, as the searching and recording
is a lot easier with more sets of eyes.
Some areas are searched on foot, others through a
combination of walking and driving. All have their
uniqueness and special species to watch for. Over
the years, I have been assigned to almost every area
and have never been disappointed with the one I surveyed.
I’ve seen a convocation of eagles riding the
thermals up above Castle Rock to an imaginary line
before they beelined it towards the river. I’ve
counted paddlings of ducks rising off of the river
or the sloughs. I’ve searched for a rafter
of turkeys, but have only seen one or two at a time.
And as for that parliament of owls, I think they
were not in session during Count Week.
This citizen science count represents the longest
running database in the field of ornithology. Some
people choose to participate as “feeder watchers” monitoring
their bird feeders and backyards during the day and
recording the highest numbers of a given species
observed throughout the day.
Even though there is a dedicated core of birders
that participate in the CBC, additional help is always
needed. Recorders keep track of the species observed
and spotters help to locate other birds. Plus, there
is often enough time for the more experienced birders
to assist the beginners with identification tips,
So my apologies to Bing Crosby who recorded the song
I’ll be Home for Christmas. Although I’ll
be home for the holidays, look for me out birding.
This year’s Christmas Bird Count, the 108th
running, will be held January 5, 2008. Contact coordinator
Marcy Hafner at 259-6197 or firstname.lastname@example.org for
more information on the count and post-count gathering
and be sure to mention you read about it in Moab