With Christmas and the Holiday Season just around the corner, avid birders begin to think about participating in the annual North American bird census surveys. Known as the Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs), the approaching count will be the 115th version to be conducted not only in North America, but Latin America, the Caribbean region, and the Pacific Islands. More than 60,000 birders will arise early in the morning to face the existing weather conditions to identify and count all the birds seen in a designated thirty mile diameter circle. The count covers a 24 hour time period beginning at midnight. All counts must be held between December 14th and January 5th.
The count circle is divided into team areas and each area has a compiler to organize the counts, recruit team leaders and members, compile the data and file it with the National Audubon Society. Once a count becomes established, the teams continue to work the same areas to utilize the experience gained from previous counts year-to-year to provide consistency in the acquired data. As this data is used by scientists, the counters want the data to be as accurate as possible.
We now have four CBCs in a fifty mile radius around Kerrville. The longest running area CBC is the Boerne (Comfort), begun 48 years ago by Sue Wiedenfeld of Comfort and centers near Waring. The count will take place on January 3rd. In the year 2000 the late Charles Howell initiated two new counts, the Kerrville CBC in and around the city of Kerrville, and the West Kerr (County) CBC, centered near Hunt. The West Kerr CBC will be held on December 30th while the Kerrville CBC will be conducted on January 5th. The fourth count will be centered in the Love Creek/Lost Maples area and conducted on December 19th.
The local counts normally have ranges from 80 to 100 species of birds each year with minor fluctuations; the new Love Creek/ Lost Maples CBC had an initial count of 102 species. A few years ago I was invited to participate in a couple of CBCs on the Texas Gulf Coast where habitat diversity produces species counts more than double those found in the Hill Country. Next Monday I will be near Bay City for the Mad Island/Matagorda County CBC, where the total species normally is in the 230-240 range. This CBC has held first place in number of species among the more than 2,000 CBCs in North America for approximately fifteen years.
On December 19th the Guadalupe Delta CBC takes place near Port Lavaca where the annual count number is in the 220+ range. For many years the Guadalupe Delta has been second among the CBC, but a CBC near San Diego, California took over the runner-up position last year. We Texas birders have a lot of pride and will have to work harder this year to regain that number 2 spot. While in the coastal area I also participate in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge CBC. The Aransas Refuge is the winter home for the main flock of wild Whooping Cranes.
Participating in three CBCs in four days can be exhausting, but when the birding is excellent the excitement stimulates extra energy for birders to complete the counts. More than one hundred birders from around the state show up every year to be part of this coastal birding extravaganza to keep our CBCs at the top of the high count lists.
If you would like to join us for one or more of the four local area CBCs, please let me know by email of your interest. I will direct you to the compiler of the various counts. We only ask that participants be prepared for a long day and fit into the team concept of finding as many birds as possible. Unlike casual birding trips, CBCs present serious challenges for our teams. We welcome everyone who is willing to meet the challenges of the day.