The Christmas Bird Count
The Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society is the biggest birding event of the year, last year in the United States 59,039 people participated in 1902 different count areas amassing a total of 54,531,408 individual birds! Every count is restricted to a circle with a diameter of 15 miles that does not overlap another circle. The first counts were established on Christmas Day 1900, 116 years ago, the data collected helps in assessing changing bird populations. Here in Massachusetts there are 33 different counts including Greater Boston which of course includes Mount Auburn within its 176 square miles. Each count is for a 24 hour period from December 14 through January 5, however most birders start at dawn or a little bit before for owls and continue to the end of the day. The best part of the day is the tally where many of the participants gather to report their findings and to share the experiences of the day with some hot soup, chili and other goodies.
Over the forty-four years I have been the compiler of the Greater Boston Count we have recorded an amazing 231 different species, though each year averages out at around 115 species. Mount Auburn has contributed one of the rarest birds found on a Christmas Bird Count in Massachusetts- an Ash-throated Flycatcher in December 1998. In recent years the only Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers on the Boston count have found the Cemetery a good place to spend the winter months sucking sap from the Nikko Fir and Cedar of Lebanon trees. Another fairly reliable sighting in the Cemetery is the Great Horned Owl, usually hiding in Consecration Dell.
The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to be an expert to participate in the Christmas Bird Count, you can join a group and help them count!