Counting birds
Charlie Plimpton, an avian biologist with the Fort Hood Adaptive and Integrative Management program, points to a songbird as volunteers and avian experts scan the skies during the post's 7th annual Christmas Bird Count outreach event at Fort Hood, Texas, Dec. 13. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental ) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - Annually around mid-December, the Fort Hood Adaptive and Integrative Management program, along with volunteers, biologists, students from Texas A&M University Central Texas and Wild Birds Unlimited-Temple, come together to support the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and comb the training areas to count as many birds as possible in a single day.

Fort Hood’s 7th annual CBC focused on a community outreach event on Dec. 13, followed by an official event Dec. 14.

“Locally, we will be able to use the data collected to gain insights to our avian population trends and how they change from year to year, and eventually over the course of many years on Fort Hood,” Charlie Plimpton, avian biologist, AIM program, said. “The CBC is also a great way to engage the public and encourage people to learn more about birding and the abundance of wildlife that is available for them to enjoy.”

Cassie Bray and her seven-year-old daughter, Briley, were excited about the second opportunity to participate in a citizen science initiative after helping Fort Hood biologists with a monarch tagging event in the fall.

Spotting scope
Cassie Bray holds her seven-year-old daughter, Briley, as she uses a spotting scope held by Chelsea Plimpton, a pollinator biologist, during the 7th annual Christmas Bird Count outreach event at Fort Hood, Texas, Dec. 13. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental) VIEW ORIGINAL

“It was really exciting to try something different and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was nice to get out and get into nature,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to get life skills and do our part to see what we can do to help to grow our experiences and knowledge in birds and nature.”

Each count aims to identify and record every individual bird encountered within a defined 15-mile circle, and count birds that can be seen or heard.

“I thought from beginning, ‘Wow, they barely see them. How can they see what they are?’ But it helped me know how we can grow in bird identification and now recognize it’s also about our ears and listening,” Bray said. “So that’s really exciting. My take away is get on the bird apps and for my daughter and I to start learning and growing in our understanding of birds.”

During the official event, Fort Hood biologists and expert birders observed 116 species and 7,075 individual birds.

Plimpton explained that anyone can participate in the count since volunteers are teamed with avian experts.

“This citizen science event gives volunteers the opportunity to learn about bird identification and conservation,” he said. “I hope Fort Hood’s CBC sparks more people to take an interest in birding, as I have in my own personal life. Birding gives me great joy and being out in nature has many health benefits for mental well-being, as well.”

Volunteers interested in birding and contributing to bird data will have another opportunity next month as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count set for Feb. 17-20.

To participate, decide where you will watch birds; watch birds for 15 minutes or more, at least once over the four days; and count all the birds you see or hear within your planned time/location and use the best tool for sharing your bird sightings such as Merlin Bird ID app or eBird.org.

For more information about the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, visit www.audubon.org/join-christmas-bird-count. For more information on the upcoming 2023 Great Backyard Bird Count, visit www.birdcount.org.