Young Sonoma bird enthusiasts are gearing up for the eighth annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids), which runs a half-day and begins at the Sonoma Community Center Sunday, Jan. 12.
The event was originally started in Sonoma by Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie in 2007 and has since spread across the U.S. and even into Canada. Rusert says the duo created the event as a way to get younger children, ages 8 to 11, involved in bird watching after having to turn so many away from the century-old, National Audubon Christmas Bird Count that runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. “The youngsters are largely left out of this rigorous day-long event, so we decided to start something so we didn’t have to turn away kids,” Rusert said.
The Junior Audubon Society existed until 1970, Rusert said, but until he and Peterie created the kids event, there was no official birding activity that existed for youth in the U.S.
The Audubon event, he notes, is more of a census of species in the region and was neither extremely engaging nor educational for children. Now, through the CBC4Kids, 8- to 16-year-olds and a parent can participate in several birding education activities including a binocular boot camp and bird watching. Children ages 4 to 7 can attend the event’s Budding Birders Camp with a short bird discovery walk hosted by Crescent Montessori School.
“Sonoma Valley is a magnificent place for birding,” Rusert said, noting more than 400 species of birds have been officially recorded in Sonoma County over the last several decades – 800 to 900 bird species have been recorded in the nation. In Sonoma Valley, 200 species of birds have been identified.
On Jan. 12, experienced birders will lead small teams of children, and one parent-per-child, along an assigned route in designated Sonoma habitats following the boot camp. Each team will record all bird species they see on a 90-minute observation hike before returning to the community center for a celebration and a presentation of the teams’ findings. The birds will be tallied and team totals will be submitted to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology eBird program, the largest database of recorded bird locations in the world.
“Birding,” Rusert said, “is a light sport, something you do forever.” Rusert and Peterie created an event for children and families to instill the spirit on the traditional Audubon event at an early age. The eighth annual CBC4Kids in Sonoma Valley takes place at the Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., on Sunday, Jan. 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Participants should be dressed for the weather. Comfortable shoes, dress in layers, bring a bird book, binoculars if available, and a snack and water. Some loaner binoculars will be provided. Participants should bring a brown bag lunch to enjoy during team presentations at the end of the event. Drinks will be provided.
To participate in CBC4Kids, sign up is required by Friday, Jan. 10, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 939-8007. A $5 a child fee will be collected at sign in. For more information, visit sonomabirding.com.