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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on local landscape and natural history of Pend Oreille County, Washington. A partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department has allowed us to expand this program through EPA funding to include more classes, a newsletter and this website.

The Big Circle of Birds


by John Stuart

This Christmas season, Pend Oreille County will have its first annual CBC or Christmas Bird Count. The essence of a CBC is people getting together and having a good time looking for birds. The count is very casual and because we are never in a hurry, there is plenty of time to actually study bird activities; what are they eating, which different species congregate together in winter, which uncommon birds are present?

CBC s were started in 1900 by early birders, that is, before binoculars, and have continued to the present. The “counting” of live birds was actually a more passive alternative to an informal count that was going on in the 1890’s in some eastern states. At that time the birders went into the field with shotguns and whoever returned at the end of the day with the most dead birds “won” the count. At that time the decimation of many species by market hunting was coming to be public knowledge. Going to a paper count of birds seemed like a better alternative. Over the years CBC data has become a valuable scientific contribution to the study of bird population and habitat changes and is used in many academic inquiries.

The National Audubon Society coordinates the Counts and compiles the numbers into a printed book each year. Over 50,000 people are involved in over 1,800 CBCs across North America The count takes place in a circle, 15 miles in diameter, usually with a town or other landmark as the center. The participants divide into different groups (three or four to a car) and count as many birds as possible in a part of the circle. A very important part of the Count is for the people who don’t want to go out driving all day but would like to participate. If you have a feeder and would like to be a part of the CBC, you can tally your feeder birds and include them in the final count.

The exact circle and date have not yet been established but if you would like to participate, call John Stuart at 447-2644 and we will let you know the eventual details. The count can happen between December 14 and January 5.

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