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Calmes Neck Property Owners Association
A Virginia Nonstock Corporation

 Birds and Wildlife...
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The Christmas Bird Count, A 108 Year Old Tradition
 by Margaret Wester

.Around the turn of the last century, it was a tradition to engage in a side hunt on Christmas day. It involved shooting as many birds and small mammals as you could and the “winner” had the largest catch. The Audubon society was a young organization at that time and one of it’s members, an officer of the New York chapter, named Frank Chapman, proposed that instead of hunting birds that parties form to identify, count and record as many birds as possible. And so on Christmas day, December 25, 1900, the very first Christmas Bird Count was held.
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Only 27 people participated that day, but they started a new tradition that has evolved into the largest citizen science project today in the world, with 50,000 participants in over 2,000 registered counts including every state in the United States, Canada, Mexico and several other Central and South American countries. The counting period has expanded from one day to 3 weeks with each circle selecting one day from the official period. This year CBC’s will be conducted from December 14, 2007 until January 5, 2008 (Please see the schedule of local counts in this newsletter). A count circle is defined as a geographic location by the latitude and longitude of its’ center point and a 15 mile diameter radiating from this point. The circle is then divided into navigable sections (by foot, car or canoe, by natural borders or roads) that a party of usually 2 or more can cover in one day (dawn to dusk if needed, with some participating in night time owling). As each party moves through their section, identifying and counting birds, they record their findings on tally sheets. These are then turned over to the compiler who compiles the data from all the sections of their circle and then enters this data on the Audubon website. Audubon in turn compiles and analyzes all of these entries and publishes the results along with pertinent articles in “American Bird” which comes out almost a year after the count. Scientists and ornithologists at such institutions as Cornell University use this information. It is also part of the US governments’ natural history database. For scientists’, this has proven to be a valuable resource for learning about bird behavior and movement. Changes in these patterns may indicate changes in climate, habitat or a specific problem prompting further studies to discover the causes for these changes. Therefore, these bird counts have become indicators of environmental health and a useful tool for conservation.
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The database of all of the counts starting from the first one up to date is on the Audubon website. You can learn more about it at
www.audubon.org using the birds/science/citizen science/CBC links.
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This year, when you participate in a Christmas Bird Count, you can think about all the others counting with you and know that you are part of a great and traditional conservation effort.

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This article is dedicated to Fran Endicott,
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A founder of the Calmes Neck CBC circle,
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Longtime member and past president of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Audubon Society
 

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