By Becky Herman
Special to The SUN
“It is not many years ago that sportsmen were accustomed to meet on Christmas Day, ‘choose sides’ and then as representatives of the two bands resulting, hie them to the fields and woods on the cheerful mission of killing practically everything in fur or feathers that crossed their path — if they could.” This disconcerting picture of “side-hunts” comes from Bird Lore, a bi-monthly journal published in Englewood, N.J., at the beginning of the 1900s. The text continues, “We are not certain that the side hunt is wholly a thing of the past, but we feel assured that no reputable sportsman’s journal of today would venture to publish an account of one, unless it were to condemn it.” At the turn of the century, the times, they were a-changing.
Bird Lore, it seems, was instrumental, along with Frank Chapman, in proposing a new kind of Christmas side hunt, in the form of a bird census. The editors of the journal encouraged readers to spend part of Christmas Day with the birds, counting how many of each individual species had been sighted. They even suggested noting the day’s weather and temperature, the time spent and the direction and force of the wind. The results were to be tallied and reported that very night to Bird Lore.
“Promptness in sending these lists to Bird-Lore … is urged in order that the best of them may be published in our February number, where they will be not only of interest to other participants in the ‘hunt’ but will also constitute, in a measure, a census of Christmas bird-life.”
These are actually many of the guidelines the Weminuche Audubon Society (WAS) will follow during its annual Christmas Bird Count, happening this year on Dec. 14. Society members brave the cold with binoculars and spotting scopes, checklists, pencils and something hot to drink in order to look for and count birds.
It’s an exciting feeling to know that our local chapter of the National Audubon Society is part of the longest-running citizen science survey in the world.
WAS would like to encourage those of you who enjoy seeing, hearing and learning about our local birds to be a part of this time-honored tradition. A bird ID training session will be held on Dec. 10 at the Ross Aragon Community Center at 6:30 p.m.
Even something as simple as spending a little time on Dec. 14 to watch the birds at your feeders, noting the species and numbers of birds and reporting the data you collect is extremely useful to scientists who use our observations for the good of wildlife.
Call Dottie George at 731-5759 or Becky Herman at 264-2171 for more information.