Close out the year with the Christmas Bird Count

As a grand finale to your holiday season, consider closing out the year by participating in the Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This year’s Vashon CBC will take place on Sunday, Dec. 30, from dawn to dusk, followed by a gathering at the Land Trust building at 5 p.m.

The annual Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world. The CBC comprises a census of the individual birds found within more than 2,000 15-mile diameter count circles all across the region, with most located in the United States and Canada, but growing participation in Mexico, Central and South America as well as a few Pacific islands.

The Vashon count regularly records around 115-120 bird species, and recent counts have featured rarities such as Yellow-billed Loon, White-breasted Nuthatch and Red-shouldered Hawk. Our count circle includes all of Vashon and Maury Islands, a section of the Kitsap Peninsula along Colvos Passage and most of Blake Island to the north.

As this is a huge area, we’re looking for as many volunteers as we can find to help cover as much of it as possible. There are several ways to participate for people of all skill levels:

1. Join a team in the field
A number of field teams will venture out to cover particular portions of the count circle, including all of the various birding hot spots. Teams generally spend most or all of the day in the field, and observers with a team can expect to record around 30-50 species with the guidance of experienced team leaders.

2. Count birds at your feeder
If you don’t have the time or inclination to join one of the field teams, you can still help out by counting the birds at your feeder (or anywhere on your property). Birders of any skill level can contribute by spending just a few minutes counting their yard birds.

3. Owling parties
There will also be one or more owling parties heading out from 3 or 4 a.m. until dawn in the hope of hearing some owls calling.

4. Report owls from your neighborhood
As owls can be tricky to locate, another way to assist with the count would be to report any owls you hear calling over the next few weeks, particularly on the day of the count.

5. Allow shoreline access from your property
As there are many portions of the shoreline where there is no public access, if your house is on the waterfront anywhere other than Quartermaster Harbor, you can also help by granting permission to one of the field teams to count seabirds from your property.

At the end of the day we’ll congregate at the Land Trust building for our wrap-up meeting, where the stalwart birders who make this event happen share their triumphs and disappointments over warm drinks and light refreshments.

This year the CBC compiler and organizer will be Ezra Parker. Please contact him at 206-463-0383 or ezra@cfgrok.com if you’re interested in taking part in the count.

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