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Christmas Bird Count-January 2 

Red-breasted NuthatchThe catch phrase "think globally, act locally," may well apply to the annual Christmas Bird Count phenomenon now in its 111th year at the global level and the 37th year at the local level. The numbers are really quite staggering now that the count has expanded beyond the USA and Canada. Last year 2,160 counts involved 60,753 volunteers, who tallied over 56 million birds representing 2,300 species. While dwarfed by all those numbers, Rutland County's contribution amounted to 6,333 individual birds, representing 43 species, tallied by 28 volunteers. Incidentally, those numbers were well below average, something we hope to address this year with your help!

Since the results of this mammoth "citizen science" exercise form the basis of serious research, certain protocols need to be followed throughout. The count circle, 15 miles in diameter, once described, cannot be changed from year to year. The window of opportunity for undertaking the count is standardized to run from December 14 through January 5. Miles traveled by car and by foot are recorded as are the hours spent watching feeders. The high and low temperatures are recorded as are the winter, water, and precipitation conditions. Count compilers and organizers, while independent, tend to follow similar organizational methods of designating field teams to specific areas while feeder watchers may remain in the comfort of their homes.

This year's count is set for Sunday, January 2. The traditional potluck supper follows the day's activities when a tentative list of the sightings is compiled and highlights recounted. Rutland County Audubon participants have enjoyed the hospitality of the Proctor Library over the years and will do so again, gathering in time to kick off proceedings at 6 PM. Bring a dish to share; beverages and utensils will be provided.

For further information and/or express a desire to be part of this 37th Rutland Christmas Bird Count, contact Roy Pilcher at 775-3461 or shamwariVT@aol.com.


the Christmas Bird Count results are in!

The Rutland County Audubon Christmas Bird Count held on December 26 produced forty-three species and a total of 6,333 individual birds. This compares to a 10-year running average of 49.5 species and 9,103 individual birds.

This year family gatherings, work obligations and illness reduced the number of field teams from eight to seven, comprised of 19 observers. Dire predictions of sleet and rain did not materialize, but winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts of 30 to 35 mph no doubt affected the numbers as birds, like us, dislike being out in bad weather.

Nevertheless, dedicated birders, plus nine feeder watchers, prevailed, completing RCAS’s 36th annual CBC. 749 Black-capped Chickadees were seen during this year's CBCAnd, as in most years, new records were broken. The numbers of Mallard and Common Merganser set new highs with 474 and 16, respectively. Other species have established themselves as regulars on the annual list such as Red-bellied Woodpecker (1) and Carolina Wren (4). Bald Eagle made its second CBC appearance.

Other species, whose numbers are cyclical and tied to food sources, were in low numbers or absent altogether this year such as White-winged Crossbill (0), Common Redpoll (0), and Pine Siskin (1). Other species, sadly, seem to be observed in declining numbers as the years pass. For example Evening Grosbeak has not been observed since 2007 when 45 were counted. In 1983 there were a record 1,871 grosbeaks!

One bonus is Christmas Bird Count protocol which allows 142 Dark-eyed Juncos were countedspecies seen during the count week, but not the day of the count, to be included in the final tally. This year, thanks to keen eyes and a bit of extra effort, Cooper’s Hawk, Barred Owl, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Northern Shrike, and Pine Siskin were added during count week.

Stories of the day and a countdown of the day’s birds were shared that evening at the potluck supper at the Proctor Library. Good food and the camaraderie of fellow birders closed out the birding year for RCAS. 

Many thanks to Roy Pilcher for making sure the CBC happens, as he does every year, and to all the participants for their dedication to the Christmas Bird Count!

Information on past counts across the country can be found at the National Audubon website.  Once the final results are reviewed, the 2009 data will be available as well.

Hope to see you at the 2010 count!


local Christmas Bird Count set for Saturday, December 26

On Saturday, December 26, Rutland County Audubon will participate in the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, National Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. From Alaska to Antarctica, tens of thousands of volunteers will add a new layer to over a century of data vital to conservation. Armed with binoculars, local volunteers will join this Citizen Science initiative to count birds in a prescribed 15-mile diameter circle centered where Route 4A crosses the Otter Creek in Center Rutland. The Rutland count will be one of eighteen counts between December 14, 2009 and January 5, 2010 in Vermont. This will mark the 36th local count and the 110th national and international count. Last year the total number of Christmas Bird Counts exceeded 2,000 and over 65 million birds were tallied!

Last year the Rutland count fielded 29 observers in 8 teams who covered 25 miles on foot and 278 miles by car and along with the 8 feeder watchers tallied 10,533 individual birds (9,350 is the 10-year running average).

Scientists rely on gathered data to better understand how birds and the environment we share are faring. Just like canaries in the coal mine, birds serve as early indicators of problems that can eventually affect people and wildlife. 

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when the founder of Bird-Lore (the progenitor of Audubon magazine), Frank Chapman, suggested an alternative to the “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people “hunt” birds only to identify, count, and record them. These “Binocular Brigades” often brave winter’s chill, ice and snow to record changes in resident bird populations and their ranges.

Traditionally the count day concludes with a potluck supper. It is a time to exchange stories and experiences and to establish a tentative list of the day's sightings. All participants and friends are welcome to meet at the Proctor Free Library at 6 o'clock. Tableware and beverages will be supplied and participants are encourages to bring their choice of a hot dish, salad or dessert.

New participants are always welcome as field observers or feeder watchers. This year new recruites are particularly welcome as several veteran particpants will be away over the holidays. Any new participants will be assigned to an experienced team leader! If interested, please give Roy a call at 775-3461.


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