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Event gives birders a reason to sing

POSTED: December 29, 2011 1:30 a.m.
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The people census was held in 2010 to determine who moved where and in what numbers. Now it’s the birds’ turn.

The annual Christmas Bird Count conducted by the Audubon Society runs through next week, with two local "count circles" scheduled.

Bird watching veterans or novices can sign up and work off some of those pounds from Christmas cookies and get a little fresh air to start the new year.

The event began on Christmas Day 1900 when ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the Audubon Society, proposed the new "census" for birds. The original count included 27 counters who registered 90 species of birds.

Now, thousands of volunteers take to the wilds in the final weeks of the year to help determine the health of bird species by gauging their local populations.

The count contributes to the health and conservation of bird species by helping ornithologists determine their numbers and migratory patterns.

Unlike the other major count of the year, the Great Backyard Bird Count in February, the Christmas Count is a team effort. Birders sign up to join local "circles" on specific dates to silently trod the forests together in search of birds.

This year, the Amicalola Falls circle is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 2, with a second circle set for Jan. 5 in Blue Ridge. Space is limited, so call soon to register. Birders who sign up to attend should dress for the weather with comfortable shoes and good binoculars.

Each "count circle" focuses on a specific area, led by a count compiler. That way, novice birders are joined by experienced bird watchers.

Those whose homes are within the boundaries of a Count Circle can report birds that visit their yard feeders once they have arranged to do so with the local compiler.

There is a $5 fee and participants must be age 19 or older. For more information, contact the compiler in your area or visit the Audubon Society’s Christmas Count Web page at birds.audubon.org/cbc.

Winter bird species in North Georgia can vary greatly from year-round residents such as cardinals, doves, chickadees, finches, bluejays and nuthatches to migratory visitors that spend the colder months down south, such as dark-eyed juncos, cedar waxwings and several varieties of sparrows and warblers.

Birders may also see one of the raptors indigent to the area, such as bald eagles or red-tailed or Cooper’s hawks.



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