The Christmas Count is a yearly bird census conceived by Frank Chapman, an officer of the Audubon Society, in 1900. In that first year 27 birders participated at 25 locations across the continental U.S. and saw a total of 18,500 birds and 89 species. The count now involves tens of thousands of birders at 2300 sites throughout N. America. The purpose is to roughly assess the health of the various bird populations by sampling at the same time each year–which birds are thriving, and which are struggling; where are the birds increasing, and where are they declining.
Our local count is at Bay Hundred, centered around the town of Saint Michaels, Maryland. This year our compiler reported we saw at total of 111 species. His report noted the complete absence of Northern Bobwhites this year, and a relative abundance of Purple Finches. The compilation is an interesting comparison of recent years, highlighting the population changes. Some of these may be merely statistical variations, but others likely reflect weather patterns and true variations in a specie’s survival or health.
My experience this year was enhanced by the company of three others, two fellow birders and my wife. Birding can also be a social event and it surely was this year. We broke for a lunch with hot soup at a local watering hole. The morning bird of note was a calling Eastern Towhee in the phragmites near Drum Point. The afternoon revealed some additional species including a Cooper’s Hawk and two Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Our total count was 36 species including 800 Canada Geese.