By Jacco Gelderloos, CBC Compiler.
As I prepare to write this year’s CBC announcement, I am struck by a feeling of déjà vu – a quick check of the 2016 article confirms it: that, too, was largely written on an unseasonably warm October day, with temperatures hovering near, or even hitting, the 80-degree mark! Bizarre stuff, but perhaps a sign of things to come? Or perhaps, a fluky Indian Summer weekend ahead of cooler, more normal fall weather (whatever that may mean these days)? We’ll see….
No matter – what we can be reasonably sure of, is that winter is coming (not just in Westeros). And with that, the Christmas Bird Count season will be upon us before we know it. Although the count window stretches from mid-December into early January, the Ann Arbor CBC has traditionally been held on the third Saturday of December. In short, mark Saturday, December 16th, on your calendars, folks!
In my write-up for last season’s CBC, I described my elevated levels of anxiety with regard to the weather conditions on count day, and I sincerely hope that I (and you all) will be spared any and all such worries. I don’t mind winter weather, but I prefer my winter weather with a degree of moderation, to be honest. Of course, the birds are more seriously affected by the weather, and it will be a factor to contend with, no matter what. All we have to do is wait and see just how it’s going to impact our count results. Remember, the different long-term trends with regard to our resident and winter birds are the most important data points we collect, if not necessarily the most exciting (let’s face it, we all hope to find that crazy rarity!). Still, I, for one, am exceedingly curious if the upward trends of Wild Turkey and Pileated Woodpecker hold up, and if the downward trajectories for Ring-necked Pheasant and American Kestrel continue. Will any winter finches show up? Are we up for another Red-breasted Nuthatch irruption? What will the 2017 bird of the season be? Clearly, the best way to find out and to contribute your piece to these puzzles is to join us for the 71st edition of the Ann Arbor Christmas Bird Count, 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 and continue to 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 at http://netapp.audubon.org/cbcobservation/. This is an amazing resource, allowing you to check historical results for every count circle! In addition, you can sign up for NAS’s citizen science publication American Birds, here: https://action.audubon.org/signup/sign-citizen-science; American Birds summarizes data not only for the Christmas Bird Count, but also the May Count, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and other citizen science efforts.
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 and growing part of the eastern) hemisphere. As I mentioned above, 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 Drive and extends roughly from Dexter in the west to Dixboro in the east, and from Whitmore Lake in the north to the Ann Arbor Airport in the south – this map shows the count circle in immaculate detail. Our objective is to identify all bird species present in this circle and count how many individuals of each species are present. In addition to the daylight bird census, several hardy observers will conduct a pre-dawn search for owls.
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 (MBG) - 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 MBG premises. The MBG 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 Bot 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 http://www.washtenawaudubon.org/ for news and updates regarding the event.