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New Year’s Day really is for the birds

Sparrows black-capped chikadee bird feeder home Christy Berquist Gurnee. | Thomas Delany Jr~ Sun-Times Media

Sparrows and a black-capped chikadee on a bird feeder at the home of Christy Berquist in Gurnee. | Thomas Delany Jr~ Sun-Times Media

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Waukegan Christmas Bird Count

Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013

Name ______________

Address ___________

Phone number ______

Hours watched _____

Species — number seen

Canada goose ______

mourning dove______

hairy woodpecker __

downy woodpecker __

red-bellied woodpecker ___


chickadee ___

white-breasted nuthatch ___

red-breasted nuthatch _____

robin _____________

cedar waxwing _____

starling __________

house sparrow _____

cardinal __________

American goldfinch ___

house finch _______

common crow ____

pine siskin _______

dark-eyed junco ___

Other _____________

Total species _____

Total number ______

Send your feeder counts to Joel Greenberg, 3926 N. Washington, Westmont IL 60559-1114.

The Lake County News-Sun has participated in the bird census by publishing a bird-count checklist for more than 20 years.

Updated: January 30, 2013 6:05AM

It’s time to join one of the oldest and largest citizen science projects in the world on New Year’s Day as part of the Waukegan Christmas Bird Count organized by the Audubon Society, named after that famous explorer John James Audubon, who attempted to paint and describe the birds of America.

The tradition is 69 years old this year in Lake County. It’s the 113th count nationally and last year’s count shattered records.

A total of 2,248 counts and 63,223 people tallied over 60 million birds.

Counts took place in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces, plus 99 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.

In Colombia, the Christmas Bird Count is a crucially important monitoring system of biodiversity in the country.

The count is conducted in two ways.

One is the feeder count, where people count the birds at their feeder on New Year’s Day.

The other is a group of people who set out before dawn to check for owls and then spend the day taking a census of all the birds they see within a 7.5-mile radius from the center point at routes 120 and 41, so the census range reaches the southern end of Zion, northern end of Lake Forest and the Libertyville and Grayslake areas.

Instructions for the feeder count are simple: Count the number of species you see for at least 15 minutes.

You can do it multiple times during the day.

Joel Greenberg has been running the count here for many years and I have had some fun going out with him along the Des Plaines River in Libertyville where one year we saw two juvenile bald eagles fly up to one another, actually touch talons, and then fly away.

Greenberg is a nature writer who is presently working on the Passenger Pigeon Project documenting the extinction of a bird that used to number in the millions of millions.

He has a Facebook page you can subscribe to and he is also a blogger at where he describes his various outings in a fun and sometimes amusing way.

The very first CBC was done on Christmas Day of 1900 as an alternative activity to an event called the “side hunt” where people chose sides, then went out and shot as many birds and small game as they could.

The group that came in with the largest number of dead birds and animals won the event.

Frank Chapman, a famed ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History and the editor of Bird-Lore (which became the publication of the National Association of Audubon Societies when that organization formed in 1905) recognized that declining bird populations could not withstand wanton over-hunting, and proposed to count birds on Christmas Day rather than shoot them.

This year, Audubon waived the fee for census takers in the field to try and get even more participation and the annual published report of the data, American Birds, will go digital in 2013, saving more trees for birds.

From Dec. 14, 2012, to Jan. 5, 2013, tens of thousands of volunteers will add a new layer to data that has shaped conservation and Congressional decisions.

“This is not just about counting birds,” says Gary Langham, Audubon’s chief scientist.

“Data from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count are at the heart of hundreds peer-reviewed scientific studies and inform decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, and the EPA. Because birds are early indicators of environmental threats to habitats we share, this is a vital survey of North America and, increasingly, the Western Hemisphere.”

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