by CBC Compiler, Jacco Gelderloos

Online registration is new this year! CLICK HERE!

As I sit here behind my computer, I cannot help but chuckle at the somewhat surreal circumstance of writing this year’s CBC article after an (almost) 80-degree day! Then again, temperatures are forecast to drop this weekend, and the first of the season’s Dark-eyed Juncos have been reported. In short, winter is irrevocably on its way!

Of course, we can already start wondering about how the weather will affect this year’s tally, which no doubt it will, one way or another. Bad weather will lower bird activity and make observers more likely to call it a day early; good weather will most likely have the opposite effect, while at the same time also allowing birds to spread out more, making them more difficult to count. No matter what, though, we are sure to turn up a variety of goodies (and miss some expected species), and will continue to flesh out trends that may only become fully clear years or even decades from now! How high will the Wild Turkey count go this year? How low will Ring-necked Pheasant or American Kestrel go? The best way to find out and to contribute your piece to these puzzles is to join us for the 70th edition of the Ann Arbor Christmas Bird Count!

This year the event will be held on Saturday, December 17th – as always, sponsored by the Washtenaw Audubon Society. The event brings out both advanced, intermediate, and beginning birders, and it is a wonderful occasion for volunteers new to the area, or birding itself, to meet the local birding community and become part of the Ann Arbor area’s extensive birding network. As a former newbie, I can attest to the warm and knowledgeable welcome WAS birders will give!

Since the CBC is an effort undertaken on a continent-wide scale, our results are a small part of the much larger picture that shows the winter distribution of birds across North and South America (and, increasingly, beyond). In keeping with general trends to make most, if not all, information available online, The National Audubon Society has been posting annual results on its website, instead of a paper journal. Doing so has allowed NAS to run the CBC without a participation fee, although monetary donations are definitely still welcome! Data from all CBCs, including the 2015-16 count season is now available through the National Audubon Society website. This is an amazing resource, allowing you to check historical results for every count circle!

For those of you unfamiliar with the CBC format, some general information about our count is in order. All CBCs are conducted during a 3-week period from December 14 to January 5, all over the Western (and even a small part of the Eastern) Hemisphere. As a rule, the Ann Arbor count always takes place on the 3rd Saturday in December, to prevent scheduling conflicts with other nearby counts. Each count circle covers an area 15 miles in diameter; the Ann Arbor circle is centered on the Foster Road bridge, near the intersection of Maple Road and Huron River Dr. and extends roughly from Dexter in the west to Dixboro in the east, and Whitmore Lake in the north to the Ann Arbor Airport in the south – our map (click to view) shows the count circle in immaculate detail. The object is to identify all bird species present in this circle and count the number in which they are present. In addition to the daylight bird census, several observers will conduct a pre-dawn search for owls.

There are a number of ways to participate in this count, the main one of which is field observer. The Ann Arbor CBC circle is comprised of eight areas, all run by a so-called area leader, who coordinates the census in that region. If you wish to be a field observer, select one of the eight regions (for more information on the specific count areas, please check out the detailed maps on the WAS website) and sign up with the area leader of that region. If you are not sure where you might best help census, or are flexible in where you can be assigned, email or call me (CBC Compiler Jacco Gelderloos) and I will direct you to an area based on need. If you sign up through the NAS web site, please contact me by phone or email me to let me know you have done so, as I will need to place you into an area within the count circle.

There is also the option of staying indoors and pitching in as a feeder watcher. If you have a feeder within the count circle, this is a fun and easy way to participate. (Remember: the feeder MUST be within the count circle, otherwise the data is invalid for our count – simply type your address into Google Maps to make sure, or check with me). Like field observers, you may sign up to participate for any length of time – from one hour to all day. Contact feeder watch coordinator Kurt Hagemeister for more information, to sign up, or to get feeder watch forms.

Best of all (in my humble opinion), the real fun and excitement happens at the end of the day at the potluck supper, when the final results are tallied and announced after dessert. For the past few years now, the potluck supper has been held at the meeting room of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens - all participants are invited! If you plan to attend, please contact the potluck coordinator Nicole Sefton to let us know you are coming and to coordinate dishes – please note that alcohol is not permitted on the premises. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens are located at 1800 N Dixboro Rd, just about one mile south of Plymouth Rd in Ann Arbor. Please note that the University of Michigan has recently instituted a $1.20/hour fee at the Botanical Gardens. Area leaders can give directions if you need them; plan to gather there around 5:30-6:00 p.m.

Please remember that the CBC is run entirely by volunteers and can always use your help. Consider helping out with the potluck set-up and clean-up: it is exceedingly helpful to arrive early at the potluck site, lend a hand setting up tables and chairs, and help prepare for the arrival and arrangement of food. This may also entail getting supplies such as tablecloths, plates, etc. (costs will be reimbursed by WAS). After the supper, we will need to clean up as well. Remember: many hands make light work!

Information regarding the count will also be available on the Ann Arbor CBC web page where any updates will be posted as the count day approaches. Please keep an eye on the Washtenaw Audubon Website for news and updates regarding the event.

Blue Jay by Mdf (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons