Christmas Bird Count team at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

 By Becca Freed

Today was the annual East Bay Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Golden Gate Audubon Society (which also hosts San Francisco’s count). At the end of every year, all over the country, birdwatchers take part in a structured, organized census that’s part competitive fun and part serious science. For some of us it’s as much of a holiday tradition as baking cookies.

On the designated day, teams meet to count all the birds they can find in their assigned areas. Here in the East Bay people fan out to the Bay in boats, through commercial and residential areas, and especially to the parks and the hills, where the spotting is good. People can also participate by counting the birds in their own yards and submitting their tallies. Birdwatchers of all skill levels are encouraged to participate, although neophytes may be surprised to witness the extremes to which avid birders will go to rack up big numbers and unusual species. (Owling at 4 a.m., anyone?)

The East Bay count always winds down with a count dinner, where counters can gather to warm up, see old friends, share a meal, and swap tales about the one that got away. And the team leaders and organizers tally up the day’s results and recognize achievements like the rarest bird, the highest number seen, and the worst weather.

Although the Berkeley-Oakland count is over for the year (surely the rain has chased even the diehards inside by now), these counts are held all over the Bay Area, some after Christmas and into the new year. Check the national Audubon Society website for more information, or consider joining us next year.

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