Friends of the Rappahannock volunteers joined forces with the Fredericksburg Birding Club for the 115th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. This count is the longest-running citizen science program in the world. The FOR team hiked trails around Mott's Run Reservoir Recreation Area and recorded 28 species, including two Bald Eagles, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Downy Woodpeckers and a Hermit Thrush. This was the 22nd year of the local count, which centers on the Chancellorsville battlefield area. FOR birders are also involved in the Osprey Watch program (check out http://www.osprey-watch.org) and the Virginia Bluebird Society (http://www.virginiabluebirds.org).
According to the National Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count mobilizes more than 70,000 volunteer observers in more than 2,400 locations. It produces the most comprehensive data set depicting the fluctuation, range and movement of bird populations across the continent. Scientists rely on this trend data to better understand how birds and the environment are faring and what needs to be done to protect them. Every local count is part of this vast volunteer network and continues a holiday tradition that stretches back more than 100 years.
The 2014 count shattered records. A total of 2,408 counts and 71,659 observers tallied over 66 million birds of 2,403 different species. Counts took place in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces and over 100 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.
One of the most significant avian incursions recorded during last year's CBC included the record flight of Snowy Owls in the East Coast and Great Lakes. It was the biggest influx ever documented on the CBC and continued through the winter season. Traditional counting of birds together with high-tech modeling and mapping data enabled researchers to make surprising discoveries that would not have been possible in earlier decades.