Christmastime bird counts seek Pa. resident volunteers

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BUTLER, Pa. – Every year since 1900, the National Audubon Society has conducted its original citizenscience project, the Christmas Bird Count.

What began as an effort to mobilize the early conservation movement now culminates in a vast database that sheds light on how human activity has impacted the environment over the entire 20th century.

Up until the turn of the century, people commonly engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered quarry won.

On Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then-budding Audubon Society, called for an end to the slaughter. He suggested that rather than shooting birds, people count them instead. So began the Christmas bird Count.

Valuable information. Today there are more than 2,000 CBCs. The data from 102 years (and counting) of Christmas Bird Counts yields valuable insights into the shifting patterns, distributions, and population trends of bird species.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of the CBC. In their count circle, they count and record every bird species encountered over one calendar day during the official Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 count period.

Compilers will enter their group’s results at BirdSource, the on-line source for bird information, run by Audubon and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

From feeder-watchers to field observers, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird count does it for the love of birds, and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.

Keystone counts. The Butler County count will be held Dec. 21. The center of the 15-mile diameter count circle is located approximately 1.5 miles east of the junction of Lindey Road and Route 528.

Lake Arthur, Moraine State Park, McConnelis Mill, Wolf Creek Narrows and the campus of Slippery Rock University are within the circle.

If you are interested in participating, either by being a feeder watcher or field observer, contact Suzanne Butcher at 724-794-3534 or 330-759-1945 or e-mail sarbird@hotmail.com so assignments can be made.

The Pleasantville count will be held Dec. 29. The circle for this count is centered on the historic ghost town of Pithole.

It encompasses the area approximately from Titusville on the northwest to Pleasantville to Tionesta in the northeast south to President east to Oleopolis and Rouseville and then north along the western edge of Oil Creek State Park.

Please feel welcome to participate in this count. Assignments can be made for an easy-to-get-to area.

Also needed are Feederwatchers who live in the area. If you are unsure if you are in the count circle call and ask. If you are interested in helping, contact Russ States at 814-676-6320.

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