Well, folks, it’s November. The first week of the month did a good job keeping us under the impression that summer might just last a wee bit longer, but this most recent front’s passing has provided for a bit of a reality check. Daytime highs in the 50s, rain and wind, and, wouldn’t you know it: juncos are here to stay us.

And, with that, it’s time for me (and you) to start thinking about the Christmas Bird Count! I know the event is still a month and a half away, but having a well-prepared team ensures that our count will run smoothly, as it has for so long already.

The past two editions of our count saw rather different weather conditions: 2013 was cold and snowy, whereas 2014 was rather mild and clear. We can only speculate what Mother Nature will bring us (El Niño, anyone?), both on count day and during the weeks/months leading up to the count. Either way, there will be an impact on us and, more importantly, the birdlife present in our circle. This inherent uncertainty is what makes the CBC such an exciting event, and I, for one, always look forward to the tally at the end of the day! However things turn out, I invite you to join us to survey our circle’s birds, and help contribute to the impressive dataset that more than a century of citizen science has helped build for the CBC.

This year’s Ann Arbor CBC, the 69th edition, will be held on Saturday, December 19th - sponsored by the Washtenaw Audubon Society, as always. The event brings out both advanced, intermediate, and beginning birders, so 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). Up until recently, a printed report was generated and mailed to participants, but as of the 2012-2013 CBC cycle the National Audubon Society moved to an online format. Doing so has allowed NAS to run the CBC without a participation fee, although donations are definitely still welcome! As I write this, the summary of Michigan’s 2014 counts has not yet been posted on the NAS CBC site, but the wide array of information and news on the site is worth checking out any way:

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 is always held 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 and the Ann Arbor Airport in the south – This map 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, each of which is assigned to an 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 to help census, email or call me (CBC Compiler Jacco Gelderloos) and I will assign 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.

If you’d rather not be out and about in the winter weather, you can also be 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). 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.

As I hinted at earlier, 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. As before, the potluck supper will be held at the meeting room at 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’re coming and to coordinate dishes – please note that alcohol is not permitted on the premises. The MBG are located at 1800 N Dixboro Rd, about ¼ - ½ 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 will have maps/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.