HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 4, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are urging wildlife enthusiasts to join the tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the United States in the Audubon Society's 114th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which will take place Dec. 14 through Jan. 5.
"Bird enthusiasts, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists, will head out on an annual mission - often before dawn - to make a difference and to see nature firsthand," said Dan Brauning, Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Division chief. "Each year, volunteers brave snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count, and they have made enormous contributions to bird conservation continent-wide while doing so.
"The data collected through this effort – which is the longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – allows researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys, such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years."Local counts will occur on one day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. Volunteers can pick the most convenient circle, or participate in more than one count. There is a specific methodology to the CBC, but everyone can participate. The count takes place within "Count Circles," which focus on specific geographical areas. Each circle is led by a "Count Compiler," who is an experienced birdwatcher, enabling beginning birders to learn while they assist. Also, those who live within the boundaries of a Count Circle can even stay at home and report the birds that visit their backyard feeders, or join a group of birdwatchers in a local field. "In either case, if you have never been on a CBC before, your first step is to locate and contact your local Count Compiler on Audubon's website to find out how you can volunteer," Brauning said. Audubon's website is www.audubon.org/Bird/cbc/. Brauning also noted that there are two changes to the CBC that participants should know about. First, the CBC is now a free program. Audubon will no longer charge the $5 fee of field participants. Second, to minimize the effects of the loss of fee income for Audubon, American Birds will no longer be printed on paper and mailed to participants, and Audubon will move to an online delivery of the summary results of the CBC. Brauning noted that the CBC makes an indispensable contribution to conservation because it monitors bird species that spend winters in Pennsylvania.