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Thursday night: Ukiah's "Know Your Local Birds" slideshow and CBC "pre-meeting"

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  • katemarianchild
    Note: Birders far and near are welcome to join our CBC. I, for one, would love some help with parts of my section, which includes Lake Pennyroyal, Round
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2009
      Note: Birders far and near are welcome to join our CBC. I, for one, would love some help with parts of my section, which includes Lake Pennyroyal, Round Mountain Ranch, Heartland, Tollini Way, Mendocino College, and the west side of Lake Mendocino. -- Kate


      Tomorrow, Thursday, 7 p.m. Ukiah Civic Center. Everyone welcome,
      whether or not you plan to participate in the Christmas Bird
      Count on Saturday, December 19.

      by Kate Marianchild

      December days present great opportunities for watching birds in our area. Deciduous trees have no leaves, making it easy to get good views of birds, and our feathered friends are more likely to be active all day as they don't have to avoid overheating–a challenge they face every summer. Bird lovers around Ukiah are already scoping out their favorite haunts in preparation for their big event of the Christmas season: the Christmas Bird Count.

      Fortunately the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) doesn't take place on Christmas Day any more, so no one actually has to choose between it and Christmas festivities. It takes place in each community during a designated two-week period over the Christmas season. Peregrine Audubon Society has chosen Saturday, December 19 for this year's Ukiah-area CBC.

      All members of our community, even those who aren't sure of the difference between a hawk and a hummingbird, are invited to participate in the Christmas Bird Count. You are also invited to the "Know Your Local Winter Birds Slideshow" and orientation meeting on Thursday, December 10, 7 p.m., at the Ukiah Civic Center. Anyone who might want to be on a team should definitely attend, and people who either aren't sure or know they can't participate in the Count are also welcome. Those who want to participate but can't attend the orientation, including people who wish to identify and count birds in their own yards (if within the Count Circle), can contact CBC Co-coordinator Bob Keiffer at rkeiffer@... or call him at 744-1424, ext. 112.

      At the orientation Bob Keiffer will give a little background on the CBC, explain how the Count works, introduce team leaders, and invite people to sign up for teams. Matthew Matthiessen will then present the "Know Your Local Winter Birds" slideshow filled with excellent photographs of both resident birds and birds that come here for the winter. Matthiessen will give his usual crisp narration, complete with helpful and sometimes amusing remarks on how to distinguish one bird from another.

      Ukiah's Count Area is divided into seven geographical areas, all within a 15-mile diameter circle. On "Count Day" each area will have its own team with a designated leader. There will also be a "Beginning Birders" team that will receive instruction in bird watching basics. Participants will assemble in the morning and begin searching trees, bushes, fields, ponds, rivers, and skies for birds, recording the approximate numbers seen of each species. People who aren't yet proficient at identifying birds can make themselves useful by spotting movement in trees, guessing the numbers of birds in a flock, recording numbers on a clipboard, or carrying spotting scopes. At the end of the day, after a short break, participants are invited to a potluck "Compilation Dinner" where the day's stories will be told and numbers tallied. Ukiah CBC veterans are hoping to break their 129-species record.

      The "Christmas Bird Count" is so named because the count originated on Christmas Day, 1900. It was started by ornithologist Frank Chapman as an alternative to a now-unthinkable Christmas Day tradition called the "Side Hunt.'' During Side Hunts people rode out on horses on Christmas Day and shot anything that moved. Thousands or millions of birds and other wild animals were slaughtered each year.

      One hundred and nine years later, the Side Hunt is a thing of the past. Sixty thousand people along the length and breadth of the western hemisphere now observe and count birds each Christmas season rather than shoot them. This remarkable reversal of a destructive tradition is an inspiring testimony of the ability of the human race to embrace life-affirming change. And while it is fun, the CBC is no longer done mainly as entertainment or friendly competition.

      The data from each Count Circle is reported to the National Audubon Society, where it is incorporated into the most widespread and longest-running census of bird populations in history. Most of the information that western scientists currently have about the effects of habitat change on bird populations comes from the efforts of amateurs like us who participate in the Christmas Bird Count…err…amateurs like you! Come join us!
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