The counting of the birds

The local version of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, now in its ninth year, returns December 28 to Sonoma and Petaluma watersheds from dawn to dusk.

“Each year in Sonoma and surrounds, over 100 highly organized volunteer observers, with checklists in hand, work in small teams led by experienced birders on specific route,” according to Tom Rusert, co-founder in 2004 along with Darren Peterie, of the Sonoma Valley CBC. “This helps us better understand what resident and wintering birds are found year after year in our 15-mile circle.”

From December 14 through January 5, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout America take part in a one-day birding adventure that has become an annual tradition since 1900. Today this citizen-science event, geared to all birding levels, is the largest of its kind in the Americas.

Today nearly 70,000 citizen scientists annually brave the cold, snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count. They make a significant contribution to conservation science, Rusert said. Audubon, Cornell University and other organizations use data collected in this largest and longest-running wildlife census in America. This helps the science community assess the health of bird populations and help guide long-term conservation actions.

The Sonoma Valley Count ranks in the top 100 in the United States every year. The final results from last year posted this month, listed Sonoma Valley 27th in the United States out of 1,849 counts. Last year 171 species were officially recorded.

On January 12, a less rigorous outing designed for youngsters, the half-day CBC for Kids geared to ages 8-16, will be held. Find out more about both events at 981.7301, or

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