2018-12-22 Christmas Bird Count

White-Tailed Kite - Elanus leucurusOne day a year I enjoy the mere act of counting birds. It’s not for ego. It’s not done to call attention to myself. It’s not for an ‘I got more than you’ motivation. It is the Christmas Bird Count, a citizen science endeavor, where the birding community pulls together to survey the birds present within a zone called the CBC Circle. This is a 15 mile diameter circle where teams or individuals divide into manageable sections and tally up how many birds they encounter. Each team reports their finding to a coordinator who collates the data and shares it with the National Audubon Society.

The event has as its roots a dark past. In the late 1800s and early 1900s gunners would kill as many birds as they could in a contest for who would end up with the biggest pile of dead birds. Finally, some forward thinking people recognized bird populations were falling and proposed a “count” instead of a kill. The idea caught on and for the past 118 years the Christmas Bird Count has been taking its place.

The circle I live in is called the Rancho Santa Fe Circle and Saturday (2018-12-22) was our count day. My first CBC was done as a solo act, but my friend Kirsten and I have teamed up in recent years. I have a lot more fun when I have a good partner and one could not do much better for a partner than Kirsten. This year 187 bird species were found in our circle. There have been as many as 202 in past years, but we average 174, so 187 ain’t bad!

This was the first year I carried a camera with me. Binoculars are the only tool I usually take. It wasn’t my best camera/lens combo, but it was small enough to carry. As it happened, it was fortuitous to have a camera when we found a Common Goldeneye duck, a bird not expected in our region. When such a find is reported one should expect to be challenged. Though not my best gear, it yielded images satisfactory to establish credibility.

I rode my bike down to the nearby ponds in my neighborhood on Monday to spend time with the birds we met on our Saturday CBC. I took better gear with me on Monday.

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