If you are not familiar with the CBC, you can Google: “Christmas Bird Count” to find the fascinating and informative link to the Audubon Society’s web page on all things CBC. This yearly event, occurring throughout the Americas, is the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world. Thousands of volunteers (including me) will report to a multitude of locations to count bird sightings for the day. The “Christmas” designation for this bird count has an interesting history. Look it up—you may decide to start a CBC on your own land.
The CBC is not about finding a particular species (although there are coveted species at each locale). Nor is the CBC a simple list of unique species for the day; it is about counting ALL numbers for each species. For example, last year’s spreadsheet tallies a whopping 1,430 Red-winged Blackbirds sighted at Bentsen. Other locales, including multiple locations in Arkansas, will tally much larger numbers of Red-winged Blackbirds. But Bentsen will include sightings of species found nowhere else in the United States. And, as you would guess, the locale with the most unique species for the CBC count day is especially honored in the birding world.
I’ve supported past years’ Freeport, Texas CBC counts, as a part of Elric’s team. Freeport is always one of the birdiest spots in the nation. From Elric I’ve learned that there are techniques for counting large numbers of a single species, and techniques for going after a large number of unique sightings. A highly successful (and accurate) CBC day requires both. I’m continuing to learn the challenging and unique skills required for both techniques, and will learn more from tomorrow’s experience.
I am thrilled with the privilege of being a part of the World Birding Center’s CBC. And so just showing up at 6:30 a.m. with binoculars and day pack (with water and field guide) is not good enough. A week ago I e-mailed Bentsen's ornithological naturalist a request for a copy of last year’s CBC tally. He provided me with an excellent spreadsheet listing, and I am doing some “home work” studies to better prepare myself as a useful Citizen Scientist for tomorrow’s day of counting. The day of the CBC is NOT a day to be turning to field guides to recognize a species.
And so today is a study day for me. Today is a stellar weather day in the RGV, but I’m spending most of the day inside the CoachHouse, with last year’s list of species sighted, field guides, and lots of Earl Grey tea. It has been awhile since I’ve focused a day on study.
And how will I do tomorrow? That will be a next blog, after tomorrow’s big event. But today I’m feeling pretty good about my field guide studies—but identification of book pictures is always easier than sightings in the field. And will I be able to differentiate a Tropical Kingbird from a Couch’s Kingbird if given opportunity through my trusty 10x42’s? You look up these two beautiful species of kingbirds, and tell me your hints.