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Mashomack Musings — Christmas Bird Count


On Dec. 26, juvenile and mature bald eagles were spotted soaring in the skies above Mashomack and American black ducks were tucked away in our freshwater ponds. Other sightings included long-tailed ducks, common goldeneyes, sanderlings, common loons, northern flickers and great blue herons.

There were some more familiar faces spotted at our feeder, too: cardinals, white-breasted nuthatches, white-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos. All in all, when 12 volunteers took to the trails, ponds and coastlines, they documented a total of 69 species and almost 1,700 individual birds.

That Boxing Day (Dec. 26) effort was part of Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which has become a yearly tradition for bird enthusiasts across the Western Hemisphere. The event began on Christmas Day, 1900 at 25 sites in the United States and Canada as an early conservation alternative to popular Christmas Day hunting events.

Since then, it has grown into a hugely popular citizen-science project involving tens of thousands of volunteers who collect information about the numbers and types of birds observed in locations from Canada to Brazil.

The data collected during the CBC allows researchers to study changes over the last 122 years, including decades-long trends dating back to the early 1900s, important population fluctuations and changes in habitats. This information is ever more relevant as climate change accelerates and temperatures warm. Food sources are moving and habitats are changing; birds are being documented outside of their normal ranges and at different times of the year.

This year, Mashomack and its volunteers participated in the CBC for the 43rd year in a row. Mike Scheibel, former Natural Resources Manager at Mashomack, began the tradition here in 1979. It has since grown to include as many as 15 of our friends and neighbors.

Throughout the year, the species they observed on the 26th and many more can be seen at Mashomack. So next time you come for a hike, grab your binoculars and a field guide and take a good look around.

Mashomack is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature thrive. Our mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. To learn more, visit nature.org.