by Walker County News Today staff
While most in Walker County spent the last few days getting ready for Christmas, members of the local Huntsville Audubon Society have been readying for their annual Christmas Bird Count. Chapter President Anne-Marie Prouty is coordinating this year’s event and looking forward to welcoming a number of first-time bird counters. This is been an annual event in Huntsville since the 1970’s.
The Christmas Bird Count is an annual census of birds administered by the National Audubon Society and done by volunteer bird watchers in the entire Western Hemisphere. Volunteers in Canada, the United States, Mexico and parts of South America will be reporting their bird counts during this event.
The annual bird count began in the year 1900 as an alternative to bird hunts traditionally held over the Christmas holidays. It used to be common for hunters to compete to see who could kill the most birds of any kind, any species, with no need or purpose for their carcasses.
Prouty says that Texas is a special place to count birds because it is a major “fly-way”, a path that birds fly as they migrate south this time of year and again as they migrate north in the spring. “We see a lot of neat birds in Texas, some will stay here for the winter and some just stop over while they rest, get a bite to eat and then get back in the air.”
All Christmas Bird Counts are performed in a 7.5-mile radius of a center point. The local count uses the center of Huntsville and 7.5-mile area around that. “We split up into teams and cover as much ground as we can in one day. We then get together that evening for dinner and to tally our counts. We give that data to National Audubon Society. It’s very important conservation data.” Prouty says they can see trends in bird populations over many years. Unfortunately, they’ve seen a decrease in the number of species and number of individual birds over the past 30-40 years in general. Of course, some species are very adaptable, and can be seen in abundance. The Bald Eagle is one example of a species that has been able to rebound from near extinction. But for most species that is not the case and instead have seen declines; most due to habitat loss and climate change.
Participation in the annual Christmas Bird Count is free and open to the public. This year’s Huntsville count is set for Saturday, December 30th beginning at 7:30 am. People may contact Prouty at (936) 581-4761 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The Huntsville Audubon Society meets monthly.