Audubon Christmas Bird Count set for Dec. 27

The 114th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will take place on Friday, Dec. 27, in bird-rich Sonoma and Petaluma watersheds from dawn to dusk.

This is the ninth year for the Sonoma Valley bird census established here in 2004 by Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie. From Dec. 14 through Jan. 5, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout America take part in a one-day birding adventure that has become an annual tradition since 1900.

Today this citizen science event, geared to all birding levels, is the largest of its kind in the Americas.

In 1886, Frank Chapman, while walking down 14th Street in New York City, counted 542 hats decorated with 40 different species of grebes, shorebirds, warblers and orioles. It was this experience and others that triggered Theodore Roosevelt, a friend of Chapman, to establish Florida’s Pelican Island and later 53 other such refuges during his presidency. This was the foundation for Americas great National Wildlife Refuge System, like San Pablo Bay in Sonoma.

In 1900, Chapman went on to suggest that real bird lovers might want to go out and count birds instead of just shooting them over the holiday and thus the Christmas Bird Count grew out of that modest proposal.

Today nearly 70,000 citizen scientists annually brave the cold, snow, wind or rain to take part in the Christmas Bird Count. They make a significant contribution to conservation science. Audubon, Cornell University and other organizations use data collected in this largest and longest-running wildlife census in America. This helps the science community assess the health of bird populations and help guide long-term conservation actions.

The Sonoma Valley count ranks in the top 100 in the United States every year. The final results from last year, posted this month, listed Sonoma Valley 27th in the United States out of 1,849 counts. Last year, 171 species were officially recorded in the official circle. Visit sonomabirding.com for more details on the 114th Audubon CBC and the Jan. 12 half-day less rigorous CBC for Kids geared to ages 8-16. All the final data for both events is sent to National Audubon and eBird at Cornell University.

“Each year in Sonoma and surrounds, more than 100 highly organized volunteer observers, with checklists in hand, work in small teams led by experienced birders on specific routes. This helps us better understand what resident and wintering birds are found year after year in our fifteen mile diameter circle.” said Rusert, co-founder along with Peterie of the Sonoma Valley CBC.

In 2004, the creation of the organization Sonoma Birding offered families a new menu of nature activities, including a self guided Sonoma Plaza bird and tree tour, an official Arbor Day celebration, classroom offerings, a popular public nature lecture series and the rapidly expanding ”Christmas Bird Count for Kids” now in over one hundred locations in North America.

Birding enthusiasts interested in participating in the 114th CBC can sign up and learn more at sonomabirding.com. All birding levels are welcomed.

Gene Hunn is the new official compiler and responsible for all aspects of the Sonoma Valley CBC. He can be reached at 981-7301 or via email at enhunn323@comcast.net.