The Potomac Valley Audubon Society has set Dec. 14 and Jan, 4 as the dates for this winter's annual Eastern Panhandle Christmas Bird Counts.
These local-area counts are part of a volunteer-based Christmas Bird Count that has been conducted throughout the western hemisphere every year since 1900 under the auspices of the National Audubon Society.
The purpose is to monitor the status and distribution of early-winter bird populations.
Count volunteers join teams that go out in the field and follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day.
Experienced and novice birders are always welcome to join these teams. Novice volunteers will be teamed with those who have more experience.
Or, people who live within the circle areas can simply count the birds they see at their feeders during the day and submit a record of their sightings to PVAS.
The December 14 count, the Charles Town count, encompasses a circle that is centered near Charles Town and stretches from the Shannondale area at the east to near Middleway at the west.
The circle for the January 4 count, the Inwood count, is centered near Shanghai in Berkeley County and includes the west side of Martinsburg and Inwood to the east and the Stotler's Crossroads/Greenwood section of Morgan County to the west.
To get more information about participating, either as a field team member or by recording the birds at their home feeders, go to the PVAS website at www.potomacaudubon.org.
All those who participate as a field team member must register beforehand with PVAS.
To register, or to get additional information, contact Bob Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-754-3042.
The data collected from each year's Christmas Bird Count are folded into what is now the longest-running database in ornithology, representing over 100 years of continuous information. This database is used to help spot trends in bird populations, which in turn can help identify shifts in environmental conditions.
In the Eastern Panhandle, the Charles Town count has been held every year since 1952, and the Inwood count has been held every year since 1953.
The data from previous counts are available online through the National Audubon Society website at netapp.audubon.org/cbcobservation/#. Once there, click on "Historical" and "Results by Count". To view data from the Eastern Panhandle counts enter their official 4-letter Count Codes, WVCT and WVIN, in the appropriate field.