Another Audubon Christmas Bird Count season is just around the corner.  This great winter birding tradition started in 1900, making this its 117th season!  This  year the count runs between December 14 and January 5.  Tens of thousands of volunteers working throughout the Western Hemisphere help monitor populations of wintering birds.

If you have not been on a Christmas Bird Count, they are fun!  Birders work from down to dusk, and perhaps even longer to record and report the birds they see.  Reports include a list of each species seen or heard as well as an estimate of the number of each species.

Prairie Warbler.

Prairie Warbler. © Greg Lavaty.

Many counts have a Count-Down dinner at the end of the day.  All the participants gather for a nice dinner and a count down of all the species identified.  Birders with rare and exclusive species are rewarded with appropriate cheers and admiration.

Birders of all skill levels, from the beginner to the expert, are welcomed and encouraged to participate.

Participating on Christmas Bird Counts is a great way to see more birds and learn about new birding locations.  Travel around your state, to other states  and even into Mexico, Central and South America to experience great birding opportunities.  Out-of-area birders will often been placed in a small team lead by an expert birder familiar with the area. Its like having your own personal guide in an area you have never birded before.

Northern Jacana

Northern Jacana. © Sam Crowe

116th Christmas Bird Count Alphabetical Index of Regional Summaries
A fun way to review previous Christmas bird counts is to visit the Audubon regional summaries. Coastal counts usually report the greatest number of species. Here is a review of a few of the top count areas.

Texas has always been a hotbed for CBCs.
In 2015 a total of 3021 birder days expended 7864 party-hours on 110 CBCs to produce 376 species, 12 infraspecific forms, and 11 exotics.

Matagorda County led the state with 239 species, and was followed by Guadalupe River Delta with 224.  Freeport greatly improved with a report of 211 and San Bernard (195), Corpus Christi (186) and Port Aransas (180) had a good year on the Coast.

Grace's Warbler.

Grace’s Warbler. © Greg Lavaty.

Southern California
This is the area to be if you are looking to add to your list of pelagic species.

Northern Fulmars were reported from Oceanside-Vista, Orange County (coastal), Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. A scattering of shearwaters found in Southern California included a Pink-footed from Thousand Oaks, a photographed Sooty in San Diego, and a well-documented Short-tailed Shearwater on the Palos Verdes Peninsula count. Many counts reported Brown Booby including Malibu, Oceanside-Vista, Orange County (coastal), Palos Verdes Peninsula, Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego, Santa Cruz Island, and Thousand Oaks.

If you are planning a winter trip to Florida, why not add a Christmas Bird Count to the activities. The state hosted 74 CBS which recorded 285 native species. The Jacksonville count lead with 168 species.

Crimson-collared Grosbeak

Crimson-collared Grosbeak. © Greg Lavaty.

Several warbler species and along with the colorful Painted Bunting can be seen on many of the Florida counts.

Tropical CBCs
In South America, Colombia reigns again as far as number of counts included this season, with 27 areas submitted. My first tropical birding experiences were CBCs in Mexico, they were fantastic experiences.

Blue-winged Warbler.

Blue-winged Warbler. © Greg Lavaty.

All of the images shown represent species seen on one of the Christmas Counts in Texas in 2015.

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