On January 16th, a massive team of scientists from the Denver Metro Area took to the trails at Barr Lake State Park. Snow was falling and winds were whipping. Their task? Take a census of the birds in all areas of the Park. Their equipment? Field guides, binoculars, and hot chocolate. Their ages? Between two and seventeen.
Each year, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies hosts a Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids), connecting families with birding mentors for a day of science, service, and celebration. Not only is CBC4Kids an opportunity to learn about local winter wildlife, but it’s also a chance to perform community service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day by participating in a citizen science project.
Christmas Bird Counts take place all over the world in December and January, when teams of volunteers go out to count birds over a 24-hour period. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies hosted a Christmas Bird Count on January 2 in which 37 participants reported 72 species. The counts happen with an intensity and frenzied pace that can be challenging for children new to birding. In the quest to cover a large area quickly, there’s not much time to help younger birders learn how to identify birds in the field using binoculars and field guides. CBC4Kids is inspired by the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, but created especially for younger participants.
At the Christmas Bird Count for Kids, we aim to introduce young birders to citizen science in a more approachable way. This year at our Fifth Annual CBC4Kids, we had nearly one hundred participants, who split into seven teams to survey different areas of the Park. Each team went out with expert mentors in the morning, returning to the Nature Center to eat lunch and to analyze their data. Our eighth team – the Budding Birders, ages 3-6 – stayed closer to the Nature Center, where they practiced birding at the feeders. Each team presented their data to the group, including their species count, individual count, and most exciting sighting.
What did our young ornithologists find? Thousands of geese, a handful of owls, and a lone Rusty Blackbird, to name a few. In total, participants observed 39 different species and nearly five thousand individual birds. All of their data has been submitted to eBird, ensuring that their contributions to understanding bird populations are accessible to scientists around the world. Presentations were followed by a Q&A session with a panel of seasoned birders, during which kids were able to hear stories and words of wisdom about life as a birder.
If you didn’t make it to this year’s CBC4Kids, mark your calendar to join us next January! In the meantime, we have many opportunities for kids and their families to spend some time outdoors with us, including Birding by Bike and Birding by Canoe, and the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count. Registration for our popular Summer Nature Camp programs go live Saturday, February 11, with a Campfire Kickoff that day at Barr Lake State Park . All ability levels are welcome and encouraged!