It was more than 100 years ago when American ornithologist Frank Chapman, along with birders all over the continent, headed out on Christmas Day to count the birds in their areas.
It was the first Christmas Bird Census, now called the Christmas Bird Count, which is conducted by volunteers in more than 2,000 places all over the world. People head out for daylight hours, between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, and count all the birds they see. These counts are put into a database that tracks the distribution and numbers of winter birds over time.
The Golden area bird count (12 km in every direction), will be held on Dec. 27, and organizer Ellen Zimmerman has been doing it on the same day for 22 years.
“I was always interested in doing it, and I was reading about it one day, so I decided to start it,” said Zimmerman.
“Depending on the number of volunteers we get, which is usually around 20, we cover as much area as possible,” she said.
Zimmerman’s volunteers usually find between 32 and 35 different species, which is admittedly lower than other areas because of the frozen water here. The cold weather certainly makes it interesting for the volunteers as well.
“It’s a funny experience for sure,” said Zimmerman. “People ask me all the time why we don’t do it in the summer when it’s warm.”
In her 22 years, Zimmerman has seen all kinds of unpleasant weather including massive snowfalls and frigid temperatures. In 1996 it was -25 degrees Celsius.
“It tends to be pretty cold, but it doesn’t matter. Come hell or high water, we go out,” she said.
Anyone wishing to volunteer with the count can contact Zimmerman at 348-2225, or firstname.lastname@example.org. And if getting out in the cold is a bit too much, you can still participate by counting the birds at your home feeders. But be sure to register with Zimmerman prior to the event.