Volunteer as a Citizen Scientist this Holiday Season

National Audubon’s 112th Annual Christmas Bird Count

112 years ago, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count began when Frank Chapman, founder of the Audubon magazine, suggested an alternative to hunting birds and proposed that people “hunt” them only to count them. Now armed with binoculars, pad and pen, tens of thousands of volunteers head outside to count and record the winter resident population of birds in their region. This data helps with conservation efforts. (Courtesy photo)

National Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) takes place from December 14th through January 5th.  Add some outdoor adventure and wildlife observations to your family’s holiday traditions this year by participating in your local CBC Circle by counting and collecting data about the birds in your neighborhood to gauge the wellness of the nation’s bird populations.

The CBC offers families an annual opportunity to participate together as Citizen Scientists and beginning birders who can’t identify many bird species are warmly welcomed to join in too. Kids can learn about local avian wildlife habitats and bird populations by counting and collecting data with their parents. The data collected during the count is used by Audubon and other organizations to assess the health of bird populations.  The yearly count is the longest running ornithology census!

There are bird counts all over the country, including 33 organized count circles in the state of Massachusetts alone. According to Audubon, counts are often family or community traditions that make for fascinating stories. Accuracy is assured by having new participants join an established group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. CBC Circles ensure that even the most inexperienced birders can properly count and record data, as each circle is lead by an Audubon Count Compiler.  Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle or can arrange in advance to count the birds at home feeders inside the circle and submit the results to a designated compiler.

To follow are Western MA events local compilers are leading, and/or their contact info to get involved. This list will be updated as event information filters in, so check back for updates:

Western MA Christmas Bird Count Circles

Northampton CBC Circle

Now in its 77th year, the Northampton Christmas Bird Count includes the Connecticut River, surrounding floodplains, farm fields, woods, the Holyoke Range and Mount Tom, rural, suburban, and urban areas. Participants gather after the count for a potluck supper and compilation at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Amherst. More than 100 birders participate in the field and at their feeders.

Greenfield CBC Circle

Springfield CBC Circle

The Springfield Area (Springfield and surrounding towns) Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 17th.  Counters needed for Hampden and Springfield. The organizers would appreciate reports from feeders.

Athol CBC Circle

Meet at 7am on Saturday, December 17th at Cinnaman’s Restaurant on Main Street in Athol, MA. Tally and potluck dinner at 4:30pm at the Millers River Environmental Center  at 100 Main Street in Athol, MA. Contact Count Compiler to get crew assignment

Quabbin CBC Circle

Cobble Mountain CBC Circle

The Cobble Mountain (Westfield Area) Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 31st.

Southern Berkshire CBC Circle

The Southern Berkshire Christmas Bird Count is scheduled for Sunday, January 1st. People interested in taking part should contact the Count Compiler before December 23rd.

Central Berkshire CBC Circle

Hoffmann Bird Club Christmas Bird Count for central Berkshire is scheduled for Saturday, December 17th. Count-up dinner at Zucco’s Restaurant on Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield, MA at 5pm. Anyone wanting to participate should contact the Count Compiler by Monday, December 12th.

Northern Berkshires CBC Circle

The North Berkshire Christmas Bird Count is on Saturday, December 17th. To join the count, contact the Count Compiler to join one of their three teams. The count is followed by a potluck dinner at the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation Headquarters at Sheep Hill in Williamstown, MA. After dinner is eaten, the teams pool their counts. Even those who can’t go afield can help by becoming feeder counters at home, but should still contact the Count Compiler to be enlisted.

  • Count Compiler Contact: Leslie Reed-Evans, lre@wrlf.org, 413-458-2494

Studying birds together can be a fun family hobby. Grab the kids and discover the songs of many New England birds with these audio samples:

For more information on the Christmas Bird Count, visit birds.audubon.org.

3 Comments

  1. December 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    That’s great, Lise. Love to hear your outcome!

  2. Lise LeTellier said,

    December 7, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I am going to get my Environmental Science class to do this as a bonus over Christmas break this year. Looking forward to it

  3. December 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Check out The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s web site, Bird Sleuth: Real Science for Real Kids. They have investigating evidence modules of five lessons for teachers and homeschoolers to use. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdsleuth/inquiry-resources/investigating-evidence-1/investigating-evidence


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