The Christmas Bird Count
The Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society is the biggest birding event of the year – last year 71,531 people participated in 2,369 different areas amassing a total of 64,133,843 individual birds!
Every count is restricted to a circle with a diameter of 15 miles which does not overlap with any other circle. The first counts were established 113 years ago, on Christmas Day 1900, and to this day the data collected helps in assessing changing bird populations. Here in Massachusetts there are 33 different counts including the one in Greater Boston, which of course includes Mount Auburn Cemetery within its 176 square miles.
Each count is for a 24 hour period from December 14 through January 5, however most birders start at dawn or a little bit before in order to include owls and then continue on until the end of the day. The best part of the day is the tally where many of the participants gather to report their findings and to share the experiences of the day with some hot soup, chili and other goodies.
Over the forty-one years I have been the compiler of the Greater Boston Count we have recorded an amazing 228 different species, though each year averages out at around 115 species. Mount Auburn Cemetery has contributed one of the rarest birds found on a Christmas Bird Count in Massachusetts – an Ash-throated Flycatcher in December 1998. In recent years the only Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers on the Boston count have found the Cemetery a good place to spend the winter months sucking sap from the Nikko Fir and Cedar of Lebanon trees.
The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to be an expert to participate in the Christmas Bird Count, you can join a group and help them count!