The christmas bird count is a wonderful activity promoted by the Audubon Society that takes place every year from December 14 to January 5, where experienced and amateur birders host the longest running citizen science survey in the world.
The census helps for conservation purposes documenting the change in bird populations and distribution of species over the years. All individuals heard or seen are recorded, compiling a huge database that helps to answer many research questions.
The history of the counts is really interesting. In America there was a tradition of hunting birds in christmas at the end of the XIX century, but the conservation movement begun questioning this activity seriously, and it was the legendary ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, in the recently born Audubon society who proposed to count birds instead of hunting them.
On december 25 of 1900, the first christmas bird count took place, with 25 localities, 27 participants, 90 species and 18500 birds counted.
I’m proud to say that Colombia has been a leader in South America promoting the CBC, with the biggest numbers in terms of volunteers and census circles. The number of christmas bird counts has increased steadily over the years in almost and exponential way. The counts are organized by the RNOA (Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves) and SCO (Sociedad Caldense de Ornitología) in our country.
I participated in the 2012 christmas bird count in the IBA (Important Bird Area) of San Antonio-E l km 18. It was tremendous success. The count was organized by the folks at Mapalina Birding Tours and Colombia Birdwatch, composed of a team of people with great expertise in the area. The count started at 6:00 am and i was happy because i’ve always been an early bird so I had little trouble.
We recorded 85 bird species and the list included the colombian endemic and magnificent multicolored tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima), and other good looking tanagers as the blue-winged mountain tanager (Anisognathus somptuosus), the Beryl-spangled Tanager (Tangara nigroviridis), the golden tanager (Tangara arthus) among others.
Also relatively big and cool-looking birds were saw as the read headed barbet (Eubucco bourcierii), the Andean motmot (Momotus aequatorialis) the crimson-rumped toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus), the collared trogon (Trogon collaris) and the Colombian chachalaca (Ortalis columbiana).
The count also included rare sighting of two notoriously difficult to see neotropical birds: The Andean solitaire (Myadestes ralloides) wich was pretty active foraging on bushes, and the Chestnut-breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus), spotted singing in a
branch near the road.
Hummingbirds are also a delight to see and we were not short with sightings of the Tourmaline Sunangel (Heliangelus exortis), the long tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingi), the booted racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii) the small purple- throated woodstar (Calliphlox mitchellii) and others. Flycatchers, birds of prey, parrots, antbirds and other groups were also seen and recorded.
At noon after the count was over we went to a beautiful house in the km 18 to have a “fiambre valluno”, a delicious typical dish wrapped in plantain leaf with rice, beef, pork, chicken and yellow potatoes. We then shared our experiences and had a terrific evening. I haven’t missed a christmas bird count since 2010 and i am forward to look at the next year count.