This holiday season marks the 114th annual Christmas Bird Count, a favorite tradition among Vermont’s birding community. Starting December 14, birdwatchers across the state will be participating in the count. Many hope to catch a glimpse of majestic snowy owls, which have been seen around Vermont in unusually high numbers this year.
“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.”
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.
In Vermont, there are more than a dozen count areas where birders gather together to conduct the Christmas Bird Count. The events begin on December 14 and run through January 4. The dates and contract information for each event are listed on the Vermont eBird website at www.tinyurl.com/XmasBirdVT13.
“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.”
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, and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
“People who actively interact with wildlife, whether it’s watching birds at a backyard bird feeder, angling for fish in a local stream, or even going moose hunting, seem to have a deeper connection with nature,” added Parren. “To do these things, you need to care about wildlife on some level. 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.
Media Contacts: Steve Parren, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, 802-371-7142; John Buck, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, 802-476-0196