From Dec. 14, 2012, through Jan. 5, 2013, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in the annual Christmas bird count.
Families and students, birders and scientists armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists take to the fields and forests or their own backyards to count the presence and number of bird species in their particular areas.
Each of these citizen scientists makes a contribution to the knowledge and conservation of bird life as they assist National Audubon and other important bird organizations. This year is the 113th annual count.
On Washington Island, the count will be conducted on Friday, Dec. 14, with Dec. 15 as the alternate day in case of very bad weather on Dec. 14. The Island is divided into four sections, and each is searched by a team of several people for all the bird species present and also the number of birds. Unusual sightings need to be documented with a photo.
The procedure for field birders is to meet at K.K. Fiske between 7:30 and 8 a.m. for an optional breakfast and to get instructions and maps. We will leave by 8:30 a.m. We gather again at approximately 11:30 a.m. to warm up and compare what we have found. It is OK to take a mid-morning break as needed.
Some birders continue in the afternoon in those areas that were not covered earlier. We may also visit various bird feeders and help with identification if needed.
An owl search may be conducted early or late as weather allows. Binoculars and bird books as well as a camera are important tools to bring.
Feeder watchers will receive instructions from us and track what is seen at their feeders, how many of the same species were observed at the same time, and how much time was spent watching. Often different species are found at feeders and in the field. The objective is for us to find as many different species as possible and the number of birds of each species. Feeders are an important component of this count.
There is a third way to contribute to the bird count: we can also include casual sightings of additional species on the three days before and after the count. Anyone seeing somewhat unusual birds between Dec. 11 and Dec. 17 can share that information with us in case those birds are not on our list. We will need the date, time and location of your finding to be able to include it in the count. A good description or photo is also required for unusual species.
Anyone is welcome to participate in the count. We will have both experienced and new birders participating. Bring your binoculars and mittens!
By the way, several snowy owls have been seen around the state in addition to other northern species. Keep on the lookout!
For questions and more information, contact Sandy Petersen at email@example.com or (608) 873-0294.