BRATTLEBORO -- This holiday season, while many Vermonters are gathering with friends and family to share in a feast or exchange gifts, Vermont’s birders will be out in the woods looking for their favorite species. They are participating in a hundred-year-old tradition called the Christmas Bird Count.
"This is something that I’ve been participating in since 1980 and it’s a lot of fun" said Vermont Fish & Wildlife biologist Steve Parren. "You can see some cool species like horned grebes or red-bellied woodpeckers."
The Christmas Bird Count originated in 1900 with ornithologist Frank Chapman. It stemmed from a tradition of conducting Christmas morning hunts in which participants competed to see how many birds they could collect. Chapman, an officer in the Audubon Society, changed the focus from collecting birds to a census of the wintering locations of various bird species.
In Vermont, there are more than a dozen count areas where birders gather together to conduct the Christmas Bird Count. According to Parren, participants in some Vermont count areas compete with others to see who can spot more birds, and there are even long-standing friendly rivalries between some sites.