The bird watching tradition is going strong as the National Audubon Society's 115th Christmas Bird Count begins.
Bird watching this year started on Dec. 14 in Trempealeau County in Wisconsin and runs through Jan 5, 2015. Bird enthusiasts will start bird counting throughout this period. The bird count will be conducted in some 2,300 areas called circles across the U.S.
Thousands of volunteers across the country participate in the bird watching tradition, which has also become a family tradition for many generations. Students, families and scientists gather together in groups with their binoculars and bird guides for the annual tradition of counting varieties of birds.
"Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes 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 help guide conservation action," the Audubon Society stated.
Bird watchers do not have to pay any fee to participate in the annual bird count. Bird counters are usually grouped together to count birds in the wild or birds at bird feeders. All bird counters should check with their organizer regarding their area.
Scientists report watching hundreds of individual birds from 20 different species.
"A bird we take for granted right here in the Coulee Region is the Northern Cardinal. Seven years ago that was a rarity there; now, it's something we see all the time, so there's birds like that where you see changes with time," said Wisconsin bird counter Dan Jackson.
On Dec. 20, around 60 local bird watchers will start the bird count in the Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., area for the 50th time since December 1965, when the event included only 12 local bird watchers.
The bird counting results will be submitted to the National Audubon Society. The database will help scientists track bird populations and understand the plight of birds due to climate change, which influences the region where birds spend winter.
Data from the National Audubon Society suggests that conservation efforts have helped bald eagles and ospreys recover from the edge of extinction. Some bird species, such as black-bellied whistling ducks, which were not found in Florida decades ago are now commonly found in the state.