Started in 1901, the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the longest-running citizen science program in the United States! This video from the Audubon Society gives a short history of the program and an idea of how the counts work.
In Seward, Alaska the count circle is 15 miles in diameter and covers a large portion of upper Resurrection Bay, but prior to 2001 no one ventured out onto the bay to count birds during this frigid yule season. Since that year, Alaska SeaLife Center staff have stepped up to make this happen in order to help document the long-term seasonal population trends of our coastal birds.
On Saturday, 16 December, Captain Mike Brittain generously volunteered his services and vessel, M/V Dora, once again for this excursion. Along with ASLC staff, Tuula Hollmen, John Maniscalco, and Tasha DiMarzio (former staff), we documented a record number of species (35) for this portion of the CBC.
Highlights for this year include three species of loons, two glaucous gulls, a Thayer’s gull, dunlin, and even a shrike! There were also very large numbers of Barrow’s goldeneyes, horned grebes, and marbled murrelets (see full list below). Yet, the picture is not all rosy as numbers of common mergansers have been very low during the past few years. This species was commonly seen in the hundreds around the head of Resurrection Bay less than a decade ago.
The long-term and wide-spread nature of the annual CBC provides a highly informative dataset to aid our understanding of changes in avian populations and distribution. For example, in 2007, CBC data were instrumental in the development of Audubon’s Common Birds in Decline Report, which revealed that some of America’s most beloved and familiar birds have become less common over the past forty years.
The ASLC is very proud to be a part of this long-running citizen science program that contributes to conservation!
If you are interested in joining a bird count you don’t have to be an expert or have a professional degree–you can find out if your town has a CBC circle already that you can join, check out this map or check out resources here.
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Written by: John Maniscalco, PhD
Feature Image: (c) Tasha DiMarzio
Video source: http://www.audubon.org/history-christmas-bird-count