In the spirit of bringing holiday cheer as far as into this new year as possible, I wanted to highlight a group whose local volunteers I have recently learned from and lobbied with on climate action issues. The Audubon Society wraps up its 110th Christmas Bird Count today, demonstrating that despite the over-professionalization and specialization of technical roles, ordinary citizens are still empowered to use their everyday skills and local knowledge for the common good. It's not just for the birds.
From December 14, 2009 through January 5, 2010, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas took part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn.
For over one hundred years, citizen scientists have braved snow, wind, and rain to take part in the Christmas Bird Count, making an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations and to guide conservation action.
From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds, the excitement of friendly competition, and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation. To learn more about what the birds are telling us about climate change, see the latest report, "Birds and Climate Change: Ecological Disruption in Motion."