Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Only in SCV: Christmas, a time for counting Birds

It's time for me to make that perennial call to arms--or, rather, binoculars.  This Sunday, December 23rd, LA-area birders will meet at the Western Bagel by Valencia Blvd./Bouquet at 7am.  From there, they shall disperse to identify and count all the birds they can in the official Santa Clarita count circle.  The information they collect will be compiled by the National Audubon Society, made available online, and analyzed to look at local and nation-wide trends in bird populations. Birds are easy to observe, diverse, and respond rapidly to environmental changes, so they are a great indicator of what's going on in the environment at large.  And with over 130 counts in California and well over 1,000 counts nationwide drawing tens of thousands of volunteers, the Christmas Bird Count is an amazing example of "citizen science"--regular folks collecting data that is used to inform scientific research and policy. 

You'll note that I said LA-area birders will be meeting at Western Bagel, not Claritan birders.  That's because Santa Clarita is pitifully under-represented on its own bird count--at least the years I've gone.  It helps if you have binoculars and can identify birds, but there are plenty who join the count just to get out for a hike or to help more skilled bird-watchers find and navigate the hidden city parks of Claritadom, which may be harboring birds aplenty.  And when all the birds are counted, the counters assemble for lunch at Tacos y Burritos El Pato in Newhall--and you know how much your city council members want you to support small businesses in Newhall.  So if you've done your Christmas shopping, consider spending the morning of the 23rd doing something for the birds.  For more details, you can visit Audubon's website here:
and the page of the count organizer here:

Happy counting.  (Below, I've posted an example of some of the information that emerges from these counts.  Santa Clarita's quail numbers seem to be falling, while the familiar mockingbird holds steady, and exotic Eurasian Collared-Doves continue their invasion of California, growing quickly in numbers.  Dozens and dozens of other species of birds are showing their own unique trends.  What will this year reveal?)

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