Christmas Bird Count - January 4th, 2016
The Christmas Bird Count began in the early 19th century, but not in the way that we know it today. Many North Americans at that time would participate in traditional Christmas "side hunts," wherein they would compete to see how many birds they could kill - regardless of whether or not the birds were useful or beneficial, or just beautiful or rare. Thankfully, in Decemeber of 1900, US Ornithologist Frank Chapman (founder of Bird-Lore magazine, which later became Audubon magazine) proposed that the birds be counted, not killed.
The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science bird project in the nation. Running from December 14th to January 5th, tens of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers conduct this "bird census," providing population data to be used in conjunction with various conservation biology programs, including Audubon's yearly Climate Change report, The Common Birds in Decline report, as well as being used by the EPA as evidence in their own reports.
Four hours in Kiawah's saltmarsh yielded us 770 birds, representing over 38 different species. That was just from one zone! Some of us (well, me, actually) underestimated the weather, and were, therefore, totally freezing on the boat. Our boat crew also spotted an American Mink - not a bird for our count, but definitely a super neat addition to a freezing cold day!
Ally Valladares, Naturalist