While many of us were out doing our shopping and baking, the Audubon Society was dedicating their time to the annual Christmas Bird Count. This special group of people walked through woods and streams, hiked the trails, and drove along fields to count birds.
The Christmas Bird Count is a popular, fun, and rewarding bird census. All wild birds are counted that are free and unrestrained. Beginners are paired with the pro's, and many of the same bird counters are seen at each site. In the state of Indiana almost every county is included in this 100-year history event. This years' Christmas Count started on December 14, 2002 and continues through the first week of January. From beginning birder to seasoned ornithologist, all are welcome to participate on the Christmas Bird Counts. Participants must do their counting within a designated 15-mile CBC circle on the given count day.
"The information from the count is used to indicate bird trends and population," stated Sandy Schacht, Salamonie Reservoir coordinator. She noted that "the bluejay and crow count is down from last years' count and this may be due to the West Nile virus". The annual winter bird counts could go a long way in determining the impact of West Nile virus on wild bird populations. By comparing this year's count of birds, especially vulnerable species such as crows and ravens, with previous counts, biologists should get a better idea of how much harm West Nile has done. The family of birds that includes crows, ravens, magpies and jays has been most affected by the mosquito-borne West Nile virus. Owls, eagles and other raptors are among species that also have been affected.
Fort Wayne's Christmas Count was scheduled on December 14th and led by Mr. Jim Haw. And one of the best bird counts, was the Pokagon State Park-Lake James, Angola area and this was coordinated by Naturalist, Mr. Fred Wooley, on December 27th.
Overall, more than 55,000 volunteers will take part in the December 14 - January 4 count in all 50 states, Canada, the Caribbean, South and Central America and a few Pacific Islands. The Christmas Count is the longest-running volunteer-based bird census, being started in 1900 by ornithologist Frank Chapman.