Letter to the editor: Bird counts slated for December

By BEN JOHNSTON | Wilton

Once again, The Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is coming to the Kickapoo Valley. 2023 is the 124th Christmas Bird Count. 

For the CBC, volunteers tally (i.e., count) individual birds, by species, on the designated count day. Observations must be within the official Count Circle, a 15-mile diameter survey area. In our area, there are two circles; one is centered at the intersection of County Highway T and Highway 131 (“Kickapoo Valley Circle”), and one is centered in La Farge (“La Farge Circle”). The Kickapoo Valley Circle Count Day is Saturday, Dec. 23; the La Farge Circle Count Day is Saturday, Dec. 30 (dates may change due to weather or road conditions). 

Here are ways you can participate:

1) Stock your bird feeders. It is amazing the number of empty feeders we see during the count.

2) Monitor and count birds at your feeder on the appropriate count day, if your feeder is within the Circle. Otherwise visit someone who feeds birds and lives in the circle and count there.

3) Participate in field surveys, solo or with others, by driving throughout an assigned portion of the circle. Many of our observations are made at home feeders (see #1) we encounter on route. Foot and river surveys are also an option.

4) Listen for owls during the dark hours from your home, if you live in the circle; otherwise, visit someone who does and listen for owls there. Owl road surveys can also be conducted.

5) Attend a free and open-to-all presentation at the Ontario Public Library at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 1, or at the Lawton Public Library (La Farge) at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, to learn more about the CBC. Basic identification of the more common winter birds will be included at no extra charge.

6) Most important: Remain calm if you see a slow-moving car of folks with binoculars pointed at your house on either of the previous mentioned dates. They are only counting the birds around your house and not looking into your house (see #3).

In the end, if you are interested in participating this year, or if you know anyone interested, you can contact Ben at bencj24@hotmail.com to sign up, or visit Audubon Christmas Bird Count webpage for more information. If you are not interested, reread #6 above before disregarding the message.

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