By LIZ LEHMAN
LISBON – The forecast for mild weather this holiday weekend could shatter all dreams of a White Christmas. However, Lisbon Mayor Peter Wilson said conditions would be ideal for the Beaver Creek Christmas Bird Count on Sunday.
The Beaver Creek Christmas Bird Count is part of a much larger annual event hosted by the National Audubon Society, an organization dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats. This year marks the 122nd year of Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Census, one of the oldest wildlife censuses on Earth. The ongoing community science project takes place between December 14 and January 5 of each year and can help conservationists and scientists better understand how bird populations have changed over the years. It can even measure how birds react to climate change.
According to the Audubon Society, last year’s Christmas tally had 72,815 participants who totaled more than 44 million birds representing 2,355 different species. Local attendees may see birds common to the county such as cardinals, blue jays, house sparrows and mourning doves, Wilson said.
Wilson has been running bird counts in Columbiana County since returning to Lisbon five years ago. He volunteers as a compiler, which he says is a relatively easy task. “Each person at the end of the day will give me everything they see” Wilson said. “It’s like you’re counting the votes but counting the birds and the species. “
Participants send Wilson their counts, and he keeps track of information such as how many birds they saw, what species they came from, how far bird watchers have traveled, and what time they started. “As a compiler, I’ll add everything up, maybe eight to nine different groups. “ Wilson said, adding that some people prefer birding alone and others prefer to go with other people.
Each bird count has a circle 15 miles in diameter and the event lasts for a designated 24 hour period. Wilson said the results can determine approximately how many birds and species are in an area. He said that while accounts are not a perfect science, they can be very informative. Researchers can use the data in studies, helping to improve conservation strategies.
Scientific uses aside, bird counts are also fun for participants and can even get a little competitive, Wilson said. “There is this element of who has the most species, who has the most individuals”, he said.
Tom Butch, of the Township of Salem, said he has been counting birds at these events for almost a decade, but still considers himself a beginner compared to others.
“Some of the guys who come out can identify them just by the sounds of many different birds and species. “ said Butch. “I can do it for a few basics, but not a lot of them. It’s a lot of practice like anything and can take a lot of knowledge.
But to be an expert is not the point of events. Butch said he enjoys socializing with other bird watchers and added that he collects new information from other attendees every year.
Bird watching is growing in popularity across the country, Butch said, even during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Butch, a Columbiana County Park District board member, said over the past two years he has seen a huge increase in the number of people using the county’s trails and parks.
“It’s the same thing people are saying that is happening across the country. “ Butch said, adding that it made sense to him. “Nature is something that is always quite calming and has a calming effect on people.”
The Christmas Bird Count will take place on Sunday, December 26 at Beaver Creek State Park. Wilson said many start at dawn and end at dusk, but he said some prefer to go out at night.
“Some people will be going out at three in the morning to have a owl,” Wilson said. “Right now the owls are starting to make their territory and you can hear them hoot. “
Butch said he recommends bringing binoculars and that some enthusiasts might even purchase spotting scopes to enhance their experience.
Sunday’s countdown is a free event and the public is invited. However, participants should register at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (330) 268-1128. email@example.com