The fourth annual Christmas Bird Count is slated for Jan. 4 in Pocahontas County. Volunteers will gather at 7:30 a.m. at Barnett Cabins at Mill Point at the intersection of Route 219 and Route 39/55. The event is never postponed due to inclement weather. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a holiday tradition among birders throughout North America with this being the 111th edition.
Everyone is encouraged to attend the count from novices to experience birders. "We encourage new birders to come to this event," said Pocahontas Nature Club President Dottie Simkins. "It is much easier to sight birds with the leaves off the trees plus there are experienced birders who can team up with new people so the event can be a real learning experience."
Volunteers will break up into teams to survey the 15-mile diameter area centered at Mill Point. Assignments will be made to teams to cover specific areas. At noon, everyone will reconvene at the cabins to have a hot lunch, converse about unusual sightings and to ensure each team has traveled back and forth safely.
Last year's count included one bald eagle, 10 pileated woodpeckers and four hooded mergansers, but the short-eared owl was the bird that caused all the oohs and aahs. In all, 11 participants counted 50 different species for a total of 1,326 birds.
"We're starting the count a bit later," said Simkins. "We've found birds are not out so early in the cold weather.
The first CBC was conducted in 1900 and was coordinated by ornithologist Frank Chapman in protest to an annual event known as the "side hunt." The side hunt was a contest in which two teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. Chapman and others thought it would be better to host an annual count instead of a shoot.
To participate in the Pocahontas County Christmas Bird Count, call Gail Hyer of the Pocahontas County Tourism office at 304-799-4636 or visit the Pocahontas Nature Club on Facebook.