One hundred and fifteen years ago...
The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began at the turn of the 20th Century as an alternative to the traditional Holiday Side Hunt, a competetion to see who could shoot the most birds.
Concerned about declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank Chapman, part of the fledging Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition: a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds instead of hunting them.
The first CBC was held on Christmas 1900, with 25 counts 27 participants in the U.S. and Canada. Together they tallied 89 species.
115 years later, the CBC is going strong. In 2014, there were 1,863 counts with tens of thousands of participants in the United States alone. A total of 660 to 680 species are usually tallied in the U.S. and Canada.
The National Audubon Society leads the effort, compiles data nationwide and makes the results available to all on their website here.
The Nokesville Circle covers a transition area
All CBC Circles cover a 15-mile diameter circle (113,000 acres). The Nokesville count circle, centered at Merrimac Farm WMA, covers a diverse landscape at the edge of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and captures the transition from coastal plain to piedmont ecosystems.
The Nokesville Circle extends from the Prince William County landfill on Route 234 to Nokesville Proper, and from the Lunga Reservoir near I-95 to Catlett in Fauquier County.
The count circle includes the Prince William landfill, where most of the Bald Eagles included in the tally are seen.
Portions of Prince William Forest Park, Manassas Airport, Foggy Bottom and Cedar Run Wetland Banks, large areas within MCB Quantico, and privately owned farmland are also within the count area. View a map here.
Thanks to the efforts of more than forty volunteers, the Nokesville Christmas Bird Count was a great success. Altogether, birders recorded 93 species and nearly 45,000 individual birds, a high count for the Nokesville circle since we began in 2008.
We had several noteworthy species this year. Two Great Egrets and a Black-crowned Night Heron were found at the Route 234 Wetland Mitigation Area.
A couple of Peregrine Falcons and a Merlin were spotted in Fauquier County and a Fox Sparrow popped up at the Foggy Bottom Wetland Bank.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was an Osprey found by birders at Quantico.
An individual birder visiting the county landfill on the day of the count reported an Iceland Gull on eBird which was included in the tally.
We had several owls: Barn, Great-horned and Barred plus one Screech Owl as a count-week addition.
There was one American Woodcock seen in Fauquier and the only Wild Turkey on the list were also in Fauquier. No Purple Finches or Brewer's Blackbirds were seen this year.
We had several high counts for particular species, including Hooded Merganser, Cedar Waxwing, Common Raven, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, European Starling, and Song Sparrow.
We send our results to the Audubon Society, which publishes information all counts, there were 2408 circles in 2014.
PWCA began as the organizer and compiler for the Nokesville CBC in 2008, which had been defunct for more than ten years after former compiler Ken Bass moved from the area.
You can view the full results of the Nokesville CBC online here and at the Audubon data center here. The Count code is VANO for the current circle and VA2A for information between 1985 and 1994.