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Winter is for the birds – counting them, that is!

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

Published in the McAllen Monitor, December 18, 2021

Story and photos by Anita Westervelt, Texas Master Naturalist

Got a tree full of Green Jays? Consider the Christmas Bird Count. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Fewer butterflies are flying, less insects abound, toads, frogs, lizards and snakes are beginning to hide, and moths aren’t abundant with the cooler night temperatures – but the birds are lively with permanent residents, winter residents and migratory birds just passing through!

It’s time for the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count, a tradition dating back 122 years when the first count was proposed by officers in the then newly established Audubon Society to take a census of birds rather than hunt them for sport.

Valley residents, Winter Texans, visitors, birders and those just getting interested in birding are invited to join a team in the count areas. The CBC is a one day event per area. Each area determines which day to count between December 14 and January 5.

Bird counts must be within established count areas, although new count areas and teams can be formed. Individuals also can count birds in their own yard if it is within one of the designated areas.

Below is a list of count areas and contact information for those interested in joining a team or to find if your yard is within a designated area. A list of birds and information will be sent upon request. If you have a yard full of birds and it is in a count area, invite a team to visit on count day.

December 18, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge,

December 28, Laguna Atascosa National wildlife Refuge,

December 31, Anzalduas-Bentsen,

January 1, Harlingen,

January 3, Falcon Dam and State Park,

January 4, Brownsville,

Novice bird-watchers are encouraged to join a team. Extra eyes help spot birds for the experienced birders to identify, and the more novice birders get valuable experience in bird identification and habits.

Orange-crowned Warbler, a winter resident. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

The Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count includes destinations and countries from as far north as the Artic Bay, east from St. Jon’s and Ferryland in Newfoundland, west to Southern Guam, and from the northern most area of Alaska, south through Canada, the U.S., Mexico, South America and down to Drake Passage in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Just passing through? Muscovy ducks get counted, too. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Project FeederWatch is another bird count for individuals to join. It takes place November through April each year. A cooperative research project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada, it tallies birds that visit backyards, nature centers, community areas and other locales in North America. More than 20,000 individuals from the U.S. and Canada participate in this data collection project that surveys winter feeder birds over a wide geographic range. You don’t even have to have a bird feeder to join the action. Project Overview - FeederWatch.

Mark your calendar for a bird count in February to look forward to, too: The 25th annual Great Backyard Bird Count where participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes, or as long as they wish, during the four-day event, February 18 – 21, 2022. Type GBBC into a search engine to learn more or visit About the Great Backyard Bird Count | Audubon.

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