For 122 years, birders have assisted the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Each year it happens on a date from December 14 to January 5.
This community science project lets people count birds seen or heard within a 15-mile diameter circle. Each circle has a count compiler who organizes the leaders and teams. Team leaders tend to be more experienced birders. Team members assist the leader by looking for birds, driving, and keeping track of the birds on paper. This is all done by volunteers.
If you are an inexperienced birder, there is no need to lead. Whole and half day options often exist. In my experience, most start at sunrise and bird until late afternoon. A few may try for owls after dark. Feeder birds count too within the circle.
Eastern Pike and west central Jackson counties are in one circle. The area between Piketon and Jackson known as Beaver Valley is where this count transpires. On December 18, 2021, a Saturday, the Beaver Valley Christmas Bird Count took place.
Dr. Kelly Williams, an Assistant Professor of Instruction in Biological Sciences at Ohio University, cares a lot about birds. She is a count compiler and a team leader. Kelly always does a great job each year of coordinating teams and working with all participants.
The first time that I did a CBC, my older daughter was with me. I found Jim McCormac’s email on the Audubon website and contacted him. He said that we could be on his team. Little did I know that we were joining one of the best birders in Ohio on that day. Back in the days before COVID-19, we rode together in the same car. I still remember going to Limerick and hearing about the history of some of the people in that area. Jim is a good teacher and storyteller. We got to know each other and saw several birds. That year the participants met at LaRosa’s Pizzeria in Jackson for lunch. That is where I learned that the Scioto Valley Bird and Nature Club exists and supports this count.
Since then, my three children and I have continued to help with the Beaver Valley CBC. Bob Placier Scott is the president of the Ohio Bird Banding Association. He has been my team leader twice. Bob is wise and patient. He said that the best birds we saw were the Eastern Phoebe and the Belted Kingfisher. A mallard was among a group of Canada Geese standing on the shore of Hammertown Lake. A spotting scope revealed the mallard’s orange legs and feet.
One year, two of my children joined me for the Kingston count. That time I was the team leader, and the high for the day was 3 degrees! We saw our lifer Horned Larks (seeing a bird for the first time), and mostly birded from inside our warm car. At Kinnickinnick Fen, we bundled up and got out for a little while. It is a good thing that we did. Otherwise, we would have missed Canada Geese and Eastern Bluebirds on that day.
Another time I joined the Athens count. It was an hour’s drive. The count compiler graciously put me on the team covering the southwestern part of that county. A Master Gardener and I covered Lake Snowden, Fox Lake, and the surrounding area. Even as we drove separately, we would compare notes on bird sightings when we stopped. Usually we both saw the same thing. A few others planned on being on our team, but were not able to keep that commitment.
Each time was a different experience. It is fun to spend the day with an expert birder. This is such a great opportunity to learn from them. Birding with interested others is also a great way to spend a day. Doing this is free. All that you need is transportation, a good set of binoculars, and clothing suited for the weather.
Audubon has several opportunities for community science. Chimney Swift Counts and Climate Watch are two. The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place in February. Project Feederwatch is happening now. It runs from the second Saturday in November until April 30. You can do both from your own yard. The only requirement is know-how, time, and a full bird feeder attracting avian fauna. If interested, information and instructions are on the internet.
Should you like to get involved in next year’s Christmas Bird Count, email Dr. Kelly Williams. Her address is on the Audubon Map of Active Circles website. You can also come to a Scioto Valley Bird and Nature Club meeting in Ross County and request to receive the newsletter. Kelly lets everyone there know in November about the upcoming count. If you live on the south side of Pike County, the CBC headed by Dave Riepenhoff might be more up your alley. The Shawnee Nature Club in Scioto County supports this count.
For anyone needing to know more, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to help and point you in the right direction.