Polk County Christmas bird count

Published 7:38 pm Thursday, December 10, 2009

Its almost that time again. Time for the annual Christmas Bird Count (scheduled for December 19)!

These counts are enough to send any self-respecting birder to the tropics! Think of cold, frosty weather, frozen lakes and muddy trails, a biting wind and very few birds.

While we might not relish it, many of us actually do look forward to this event every year.

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What better thing to do on a wintry December day than to head out into the cold, pre-dawn hours looking for owls? While this may not appeal to many folks, it holds a strong appeal for a few hardy birders intent on missing no birds on the Big Day.

The aim is to cover as much as possible of the allocated Christmas Bird Count circle. Teams of birders are sent to the wilds of Saluda, Mill Spring, FENCE, Hunting Country, and Lake Lanier, amongst many other places, to cover their areas and tally both the expected and unexpected.&bsp; At lunchtime we all meet at a convenient restaurant to report our findings, and enjoy a warm meal and a cold beer for our noble efforts that morning.

The Polk County CBC usually finds about 75 species, while up the mountain in Henderson County, we may manage 100 species on a good day. The conclusion is that Polk County is pretty good for watching birds, even during the winter months&bsp; (considering we dont have the number of counters that Henderson can attract).

So, when are the counts this year?&bsp; The Polk County CBC is scheduled for Saturday, December 19, while the Henderson County Count is set for Sunday, January 3, 2010. There are also local counts in Haywood, Cleveland, and Transylvania Counties.

If you would like to help out on any of these counts, please contact me at 828.253.4247 or e-mail me at Travel@birdventures.com. I will then put you in touch with the appropriate count coordinator.

If heading out into the field on a December day is too daunting for you, we need feeder-watchers too.&bsp; All you need to do is to stay at home, make sure your bird feeder is well-stocked and then sit back and count all of the birds that come to your feeder. Keep track of the length of time you watch the feeder and then report back to the coordinator. Heres to a good Christmas Bird Count Season this year.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Christmas Bird Counts, here is a quick recap.

The Christmas Bird Count is now over 100 years old, although most of our counts within the Carolinas have only been going for about 25 years. In fact, our Henderson County CBC will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on December&bsp; 18.

The first Christmas Bird Count was held in the northeast in 1900, and was a result of public response to the side hunt, a competition where the team that shot the most birds and animals on Christmas Day was the winner. Ornithologist Frank Chapman and other conservationists were disgusted by this slaughter and organized a bird count, rather than a bird shoot, and 27 people counted birds that year to start the now annual Christmas Bird Count.

From these small beginnings, the counts are now held in all 50 states, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Pacific Islands, and over 45,000 people now participate in at least 1700 different counts.

As for this year, I hope the birds cooperate and that we have a good crowd of folks out scouring the fields and woodlands.~ Bird Box written by Simon Thompson