The following press release was received from Tom Rogers of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department this morning.
This holiday season marks the 115th annual Christmas Bird Count, a favorite tradition among Vermont’s birding community. Birders in Vermont are encouraged to participate in the count, which begins on Dec. 14 and runs through Jan. 5.
This year, birders will be on the lookout for snowy owls which are once again arriving from the north, along with a few rare ducks and songbirds.
“I’ve been participating in the annual count since 1980 and it’s really worthwhile,” said Vermont Fish & Wildlife biologist Steve Parren. “You can see some cool species such as horned grebes or red-bellied woodpeckers and this year I’ll be on the lookout for the fox sparrow that I recently saw in my back yard.”
Even novice birdwatchers can participate because every event is led by an experienced birder. Organizers and participants include birders and biologists from Audubon Vermont, Middlebury College, the North Branch Nature Center, the Northwoods Stewardship Center, and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
In Vermont, there are more than a dozen count areas where birders gather together to conduct the Christmas Bird Count. The dates and contract information for each event are listed on the Vermont eBird website.
“The Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running citizen science projects in the country and possibly in the world,” said Mark LaBarr, conservation program manager for Audubon Vermont. “Not only does it provide critical data for scientists, but it’s also a great time for folks who participate.”
The Christmas Bird Count originated in 1900 with ornithologist Frank Chapman, an officer in the Audubon Society, who updated what had been a traditional Christmas morning bird hunt to include a census of the wintering locations of various bird species. The count started with just 27 observers and has grown into one of the largest birding events in the world, with tens of thousands of people participating every year.
“People who actively interact with wildlife such as on bird watch like this seem to have a deeper connection with nature,” added Parren. “To do these things, you need to care about wildlife. Vermonters have an exceptionally high interest in the natural world.”
Parren encourages all Vermonters who are looking for a fun way to see wildlife and participate in citizen science this holiday season to grab their binoculars and join in on this year’s annual Christmas Bird Count.