Bird count tradition continues in Oceanside

COAST CITIES — The traditional Great Christmas Bird Count will be held in the early morning hours of Dec. 26.
Buena Vista Audubon Society will host its annual Christmas Bird Count in and around Oceanside. By 8 a.m. more than 100 volunteers will fan out in a 15-mile diameter area that includes Oceanside, Vista, and portions of Carlsbad and Camp Pendleton to count birds. Around noon, they will begin to reconvene at the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center, 2202 S. Coast Highway 101 in Oceanside, where their results will be tallied. Last year’s search resulted in the identification of over 190 bird species.
To volunteer, e-mail Terry Hunefeld at thunefeld@gmail.com. Hunefeld will assign participants to a group leader who will explain when and where to meet. Warm clothing, sturdy shoes, and binoculars are a must.
The tradition has grown from the long-ago holiday tradition known as the Christmas Side Hunt. Revelers would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever killed the most birds won, but bird populations were rapidly declining.
On Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an officer in the newly formed Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition — the “Christmas Bird Census” — that would count birds during the holidays rather than kill them.
In the 109 years since that Christmas Day, the annual Audubon bird count has become an important event, part research and part fun. Volunteers throughout North America will be counting bird species in December and January. This important data will be entered into the National Audubon Society’s database, to be used by scientists and conservationists to monitor increases or decreases in bird populations, which in turn may reflect the health of the planet.
The results of past Christmas Bird Counts have contributed to scientific opinions citing habitat loss from urban sprawl and energy development, introduction of foreign animals and disease, and global warming as key causes of declining numbers for 217 kinds of threatened and endangered birds. Identifying and spotlighting the species at greatest risk is the first step in promoting the public policies, funding support, conservation initiatives and public commitment needed to save them.
For directions or information, call Tom Troy at (760) 967-6915.

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