Cachuma CBC and CBC History

The Cachuma Count

Wednesday, 29 December 2021 will be our 23nd consecutive Cachuma count.  We see between 113 and 150 species on count day but in 2010 we counted 160 species.  We cover only about 60% of the count circle, and we hope to cover more.  All assignments for organizing the count will be shared and we will continue to have support from Mark Holmgren. Some assignments will have a person focused on them as follows. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  will coordinate route assignments and address some administrative tasks, Cruz Phillips will handle access issues, Cruz and Kate will collect and compile the data, Kate McCurdy will coordinate Sedgewick access and dinner meeting plans.  The compilation dinner tentatively will begin at 5:00 pm at Sedgwick Reserve. Written directions to Sedgwick Reserve are on page 1 of the count data form; a map and directions may be printed from here:  Directions to Sedgwick Ranch and map

The center of the circle is a point on Happy Canyon Road approximately 7 miles NE of highway 154.  (The coordinates of the 15-mile diameter circle center are 34.65010 -119.95160  WGS 84)  .

The Web Site

Again this year, we offer a web-based approach to the CBC. Obviously, this is a means of getting information to you on your schedule, but we will also communicate by e-mail and phone.  We will be using a new approach to keep track of what we are finding during the day. We will set up a Google Sheet which can be accessed and edited by anyone once they have downloaded the correct app.  Thanks to Avery Hardy at Sedgwick for setting this up for us. See the Route, Scout and Count page for instructions.

The ROUTES AND SCOUTING page allows you to view areas where you may wish to count or scout. We have provided various links to “Hike Los Padres” or “Acme Mapper” to show the location of various routes.

Turkey Vultures below Bradbury Dam
Turkey Vultures below Bradbury Dam

The Species to Look For 2021 page offers a list of those species that are easy to overlook.  This is a handy, downloadable page to carry with you in the field.  If you are scouting and you see one of these species, let Peter, Cruz or Kate know where you saw it and how many were present. You can also enter scouting information on the Google Sheets page.

From the FORMS page, you can get the three-page form for count day.  Also, there is a form to report unusual bird sightings. Forms will be available in PDF and Word format to make use a bit easier. We will also have two versions of the count form, one for single count location and one that will allow entry of data from up to three locations

About the Christmas Bird Count

More than 50,000 observers participate each year in this all-day census of early-winter bird populations. The results of their efforts are compiled to form the longest running database in ornithology, representing over a century of unbroken data on trends of early-winter bird populations across the Americas. Simply put, the Christmas Bird Count, or “CBC”, is citizen science in action.

Mountain Bluebird on Armour Ranch Road (Wes Fritz)
Mountain Bluebird on Armour Ranch Road (Wes Fritz)

The CBC Tradition

Prior to the turn of the century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them. So began the Christmas Bird Count.

Thanks to the inspiration of Frank M. Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied a total of 90 species on all the counts combined. In 2010, 2215 count circles were distributed from Alaska to Ecuador and some Pacific Islands. 62,624 observers participated. More than 61 million birds were counted.

There is a specific methodology to the CBC, and everyone can participate. The count takes place within a “Count Circle”, which is consistent from year to year. The circle is 7.5 miles in diameter.  Counting is done within one 24-hour day.  Bird counting in each circle is coordinated by a Count Compiler.  He or she oversees individuals or groups who cover smaller areas within the circle. If you are a beginning birder, you will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. In addition, if your home is within the boundaries of a Count Circle, then you can stay home and report the birds that visit your feeder once you have arranged to do so with the Count Compiler. There is no cost for participation.