Can you count? Then you can help sci­en­tists an­a­lyze birds.

Houston Chronicle - - STAR - By Gary Clark

Per­haps you’ve no­ticed changes in birds at your yard or in nearby parks. And maybe you’ve won­dered what that means for the lo­cal bird mi­gra­tion pat­terns or our ecosys­tem. If so, you might want to take a break from hol­i­day shop­ping by join­ing a team to count birds on any day be­tween Fri­day and Jan. 5.

It’s a tra­di­tion spon­sored by the Na­tional Audubon So­ci­ety called the Christ­mas Bird Count that goes back 119-years. It’s also one of the most suc­cess­ful cit­i­zen-sci­ence projects in his­tory, which means it’s an op­por­tu­nity to make a gen­uine con­tri­bu­tion to sci­ence. If you par­tic­i­pate, you’ll be on one of many teams to col­lect crit­i­cal data on the win­ter abun­dance and dis­tri­bu­tion of birds. Sci­en­tists will an­a­lyze the data to de­ter­mine which birds are far­ing well and which are not far­ing so well, and ex­plain changes we all see among our birds.

The data will pro­vide gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies with crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about the need for poli­cies to pro­tect birds. So you see, par­tic­i­pa­tion in the CBC makes us es­sen­tial play­ers in the con­ser­va­tion of birds and their habi­tat.

Here’s how the CBC works. Sit­u­ated across North Amer­ica and the West­ern Hemi­sphere are lo­ca­tions called “count cir­cles.” A count cir­cle for each CBC mea­sures 15-miles in di­am­e­ter over land, wa­ter or both.

Ev­ery CBC has a ti­tle named for a land fea­ture like the Spring Creek CBC or the Cy­press Creek-Katy Prairie CBC. Some are named for a city like the Hous­ton CBC, which be­gan in 1913 and ranks among the old­est of CBCs.

Texas has more than 100 CBCs with more than 20 in the Greater Hous­ton area, in­clud­ing the Buf­falo Bayou CBC and the Ar­mand Bayou CBC.

Bird­ers gather at a CBC lo­ca­tion on a pre-sched­uled date, di­vide into teams and keep a tally of all the birds they can find. An or­ga­nizer, called the com­piler, will col­lect bird tal­lies from all teams at the end of the day and will later send a re­port to the Na­tional Audubon So­ci­ety.

If you can spot birds, you’re good enough for the CBC. Each team has at least one ex­pe­ri­enced birder who can iden­tify birds and help sharpen your own iden­ti­fi­ca­tion skills, and help you con­trib­ute to sci­ence. Gary Clark is the au­thor of “Book of Texas Birds,” with pho­tog­ra­phy by Kathy Adams Clark (Texas A&M Univer­sity Press). Email him at Tex­as­[email protected]­cast.net

Pho­tos by Kathy Adams Clark / Con­trib­u­tor

Bird­watch­ers around the coun­try will par­tic­i­pate in the an­nual Christ­mas Bird Count from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5.

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