2012 marks the one hundred and twelfth anniversary of the Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count and makes it one of the oldest, organized citizen science projects in the country. Previous to its inception, many Americans participated in the holiday tradition of the “Side Hunt,” during which family and friends would choose sides and engage in a team sport form of bird hunting. The side which retrieved the most carcasses was crowned the victor. The turn of the century, however, brought about novel ideas with regard to conservation and the human impact on the natural environment. Frank Chapman and other ornithologists were beginning to notice declines in avian populations across the board. Working with the neoteric Audubon Society, Chapman proposed that rather than shoot the birds, different teams would in fact count them instead and on December 25th, 1900, the Christmas Bird Count was born. The initial count occurred in 25 individual locations from California to Canada and in the end 90 separate species were counted once the tallies were totaled. As the tradition progressed and species were quantified individually, the data gathered became an integral part of avian population studies in North America.
2012 is also the inaugural year for the Sea Island Christmas Bird Count hosted by the Town of Kiawah Island. Organized by Town Biologist, Aaron Given, the count occurred on Thursday, January 5th and was an enormous success. With 23 volunteers, including the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Naturalists, covering Kiawah, Seabrook, Lower John’s Island and the waterways between, 133 different species were identified in 17 territories. Some of the highlights of this year’s count included the American White Pelican, Black-chinned and Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Lapland Longspur, American Bittern and Horned Lark. Thanks again to all those who participated and we hope to see you again next year!