Participants will meet Jan. 4 at 7 a.m. at Barnett Cabins at Mill Point on Highway 219, seven miles south of Marlinton. Everyone is welcome to participate and novice and beginner birders are encouraged to get involved as there will be many experts present to assist. Bird count participants will be organized into groups or field parties. Each field party will cover a specific area of the 15-mile diameter circle on a specific route. For this count, the center of the grid will be Mill Point.
The Pocahontas County count is just one of hundreds of Christmas Bird Counts that occur around the country this time of year. The aim is to tally all birds observed within a seven and a half mile radius of a given point. Over time these annual counts can reveal trends in wintering populations of various avian species.
On the morning of Jan. 4, birders will be grouped into teams of two to three observers and assigned specific routes to survey within the count circle. People who feed birds in their backyard and who live within seven and a half miles of Mill Point can participate by just tallying the birds in their yard by species and reporting that information.
The first Christmas Bird Count was done on Christmas Day in 1900 as an alternative activity to an event called the “side hunt” where people chose sides, then went out and shot as many birds as they could. The group that came in with the largest number of dead birds won the event. Frank Chapman, a famed ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History and the editor of Bird-Lore, which later became the publication of the National Association of Audubon Societies when that organization formed in 1905, recognized that declining bird populations could not withstand wanton over-hunting and proposed to count birds Christmas Day rather than shoot them.
The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers and biologists to study the long term health and status of bird populations across North America. In the 1980s, the CBC data was used to document the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck, after which conservation measures were put into effect to reduce hunting pressure on this species.
Anyone interested in participating in this year’s Pocahontas County Christmas Bird Count should contact Gail Hyer of the Pocahontas County CVB by e-mail at email@example.com or call 799-4636; Sharon Kearns, Pocahontas Nature Club president, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 653-4777; or Rob Tallman of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources at email@example.com or 637-0245.