Here’s a holiday gift suggestion for local birding enthusiasts: Give some time to the National Audubon Society and help a nationwide effort.
The 115th Christmas Bird Count, billed by the society as the world’s largest, longest-running animal census, will take place Sunday to Jan. 15 across America. Volunteers tally bird species within 15-mile-wide circles on count days, with the information added to a database to help assess climate change and predict its effects on North American bird populations, according to the society.
Begun in 1900, the citizen science program was founded as an alternative to Christmas Day bird hunts.
In Centre County, Bald Eagle State Park near Howard will be the site of two counts, both free and open to the public.
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On Dec. 26, the park naturalist will lead a two-hour session at the Environmental Learning Center. Starting at 10 a.m., Matt Truesdale will help identify and count species at feeders. Identification books, binoculars and spotting scopes will be provided.
Call the park at 625-2775 for more information.
Also around the park area, the Bald Eagle State Park Christmas Bird Count Circle will collect data Jan. 4. Preregistration is required. Regular circle members should contact compiler Bob Snyder, of Howard, at email@example.com no later than Dec. 20. Newcomers should get in touch with him even earlier, by Saturday.
Snyder, a State College Bird Club member, will be the circle compiler for the 10th year.
“I find it enjoyable,” he said. “I look forward to it every year.”
Last year, 15 to 20 volunteers covered 10 routes at different points during a 24-hour period, Snyder said. Those interested in “owling,” or searching for owls, can set out as early as 5 a.m.
A good day, Snyder said, can yield 30 to 40 species and 600 to 700 individual birds, “not counting a flock of starlings or something like that.”
Typically during regular counts, newcomers are paired with experienced spotters.
“If somebody’s totally new to this and they want a general introduction (to the Christmas Bird Count), the event Bald Eagle State Park is having would be ideal for them,” Snyder said.
An additional count will be led by the State College CBC Circle. Contact James Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
More information about the Christmas Bird Count can be found at www.audubon.org.
Winter birdwatching often means coping with bad weather. That can result in lower counts and frustrated spotters — but not always. Mother Nature sometimes rewards the hardiest volunteers with a rare glimpse or two.
“We go out in rain or snow,” Snyder said.
“Sometimes, the worst weather brings out the most interesting surprises.”