Start A New Christmas Tradition

Photo Credit: VAStateParkStaff via Wikimedia Commons

It's the oldest citizen science project in the world, and the 115th edition starts this week.

The Annual Christmas Bird count is an endeavor designed to help learn how bird populations across are faring. The data from the count helps conservationists make decisions and conduct basic research.

According the Audubon Society website, "Prior to the turn of the century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt": They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won... Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition (a "Christmas Bird Census") that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them."

Anyone can participate in the count, but in order for the data to be useful, you do have to register and follow a specific methodology. Each "count" takes place in an established 15-mile wide diameter "circle," and the circle is organized by an experienced count compiler. If you are a beginning birder, as enthusiasts are known, you will likely be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.

To see if there's a circle near you, you can check out the searchable map. Then you can register at this link. If your Christmas season schedule is already maxed out, you can consider contributing this year by buying a Christmas Bird Count hat in preparation for next year. Purchasing the hat makes a donation to the Audubon Society.

The 115th Christmas Bird Count will be conducted from Sunday, December 14, 2014 through Monday, January 5, 2015

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Chandra Clarke is a Webby Honoree-winning blogger, a successful entrepreneur, and an author. Her book Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science is available at Amazon. You can connect with her on Twitter @chandraclarke.