Nature Connection #3 – Christmas Bird Count!

All across North America, sometime during the two and a half weeks surrounding December 25, people count birds! It’s the Christmas Bird Count – and it’s coming soon to your area, if it hasn’t happened all ready. (Tulsa’s official count was in mid-December.)

The National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count has been an annual event since 1900. About 50,000 people participated in this count in 1998. Basically, the statistics gathered at these winter bird counts helps scientists calculate how birds are doing in the places where they spend the winter. Are their populations rising or declining?

A sister count held in the summer, the North American Breeding Bird Survey, provides similar numbers at locations where birds nest and breed.

In Tulsa, the local chapter of the Audubon Society holds a Christmas Bird Count. Check their website, www.tulsaaudubon.org, for more information. The staff naturalists at the Oxley Nature Center in Mohawk Park, operated by the City of Tulsa, can also provide information about winter bird counts, or about what types of birds are wintering in the Tulsa area. www.oxleynaturecenter.org
 
You can always do a survey of your own, in your yard or in your favorite park. This is a great way to become aware of the number and different types of birds in your area. Dress warmly (it is Winter!) and take plenty of water and some foods with carbohydrates to keep your energy levels up!)

Here are some tips on how to find winter birds from Rick Blom, a columnist for Bird Watcher’s Digest.

1. Find the feeding flock. Birds are noisy, and they tend to form feeding flocks durijng the winter. walk around and listen carefully. The noisiest birds, like chickadees, will lead you to the flock of wintering birds in your area.

2. Be patient. And be quiet. Make a simple sound, like “psshhtt” and wait for a response. After a few calls, you’ll hear the birds flutter in the bushes heading your way. Stand still. Wait. And try it again. You’ll be surprised at what may appear.

3. Get out of the wind. Blom says, “Birds don’t like cold winter winds any more than you do. Find areas out of the wind, sheltered by trees, a hedgerow, a building. These areas, especially if they’re in direct sun, often attract concentrations of birds.”

4. All fields are not alike. The edges of forests attract some species. Others are found in meadows, collecting seed. Afternoons are hunting times for birds that hunt mice. Other types of birds may be found in the morning, or just before dark.

5. Put up a backyard bird feeder! Birds that eat seeds are attracted to the feeders, and birds that eat these seedeaters are attracted, too. It is estimated that over twenty million people have backyard feeders for hungry birds looking for a winter meal!

Looks like we’ll have some beautiful winter weather in northeastern Oklahoma this week. Put on a jacket and go outside, make that psshhttt sound and see what flutters up!

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