Chronicles

Christmas Bird Count (CBC)
by: Mike Lushington  

            Once again, local birders are beginning to make plans to participate in the Christmas Bird Counts. The Campbellton area count will be on December 26th and the Dalhousie count, on January 2nd.

            The other evening, at the monthly Naturalists' Club meeting, birder Raymond Chiasson mentioned that many people, including beginning birders, didn't know a lot about these counts and that it might be an idea for me to devote a column to the subject. This seemed like an ideal time to do that, what with the two local counts right around the corner.

            The idea of doing a Christmas Bird Count dates well back into the past century. In that time it has spread to all corners of North America, including the Arctic. New Brunswickers alone currently conduct more than forty of them each year. The guiding intention is to compile data from year to year on bird populations and movements and to submit those data to international ornithological associations for analysis and safe keeping. At the same time, CBCs have become one way to build member enthusiasm within those clubs that become involved.

            Each CBC is organized according to a protocol which dates back to the conception of the idea itself. A count area is a circle, 24 kilometres in radius. Local organizers choose a date within a three week period surrounding Christmas (from December 14 to January 5 this year) Participants comb the circle on the chosen day to find and count as many birds as they can.

            Some walk, snowshoe, or ski into the woods; others drive the shorelines or back country roads; and still others keep an eye on their feeders for avian activity. At the end of the day, everyone hands in results to the local compiler. As well, birders are asked to keep a separate list of all birds that they see during that three week period - and those results are added to the final tally in a separate column.

            CBCs that have been in existence for several years attract regular participants. They, in turn, tend to adopt certain sections of the count circle as their own. In the Dalhousie count, for example, we have the same faithful people who hike the Eel River Trail, drive their own route back into the Southeast or down into lower Charlo, or frequent Eel River Bar. At the same time, there is always room for new participants. These are big circles to cover, and there are always areas that are missed.

            I have been coordinating the Dalhousie count for several years now as well as participating in the Campbellton one. I wouldn't miss either one. When I sit down at the end of the day to compare my current results with those from past years, I begin to get a much wider appreciation of the diversity of bird life in our area even at this supposedly "dead" time of year. At the same time, I am left with more memories of enthusiasm shared, of camaraderie - and simply of having had another day out and around in this beautiful area of ours.

            Should you like to take part in one of the counts this year, you can contact Irene Doyle (789-7759) or at liaison9@nb.aibn.com for the Campbellton count, or myself at 684-5688 or mhlca@nbnet.nb.ca for the Dalhousie count. We would only too happy to have you come along, whether you are an experienced birder or someone who knows only that birds fly and most other critters don't.

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