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The Balcones
Christmas Bird Count

Monday December 17, 2018


Not already on an established Balcones CBC team?

Christmas bird counts are not your ordinary birding walk! Scientific data collection relies on consistent time, place, and crucial to data collection,  consistent group dynamics. This proves to be a challenging act to balance opportunities to new participants, retain team members, and have enough people to cover all the areas.

The CBC is not a leisurely bird watching event. Focus is on identifying, counting and moving on. An all day event can be physically challenging. Be prepared to travel and walk. The Refuge is an unimproved, semi-wilderness state, so you must be prepared with sufficient water and nourishment as well as appropriate attire.

While cameras are a must for rare bird identification, this is not a photo opportunity. 

If this still peaks your interest, PLEASE email us and we will make every effort to place you based on your birding skill level. We continually are on the lookout to cultivate team leaders and members. Be committed to the entire day and contribute in the search. This can be a great program for beginning birders (which we do encourage) and our leaders are great mentors, but not focused on teaching the art of bird identification during this event. Join them at our Festivals for that! 

Thank you for participating in this important citizen-science project!


Effort data is important! Fill the leader checklist form out completely. Please take a moment to review the guidelines.

Entering the Refuge DOES REQUIRE a volunteer form signed by all participants. Many of you already have one on file, but please query your team. The form is downloadable here. Return them with your checklist.

LEADERS: Please assess whether you need keys or access codes and make arrangements for them in advance. 


RE-POST from Brent Ortego, TX CBC Editor
Birder Effort

The most important data participants produce is the one which they likely pay the least attention. This is party-effort. Whenever your data are analyzed, they are adjusted for effort. Number of individuals by party-hour/mile is the primary measure used to analyze a species status. Not just the total number of birds. The link http://birds.audubon.org/sites/default/files/documents/guidetocbcpartymileshours_0.pdf discusses many aspects of party hours and party miles, but I will go over key points I think where many people make errors.

What is a party on a CBC? It is a group of birders that are able to communicate with normal voices. What I see frequently on the larger counts is that a section (property) will have 8 or more birders, but only one party is reported for that section. The birders likely were not all walking together and thus they were probably not one party. The correct number of parties need to be identified as well as the amount of time and mileage spent walking or traveling in a vehicle for each party. See a more lengthy explanation at end of this email.

Start and Ending Time

Seems simple enough logging the time the count started and when it ended, but most compilers who log nocturnal time get this wrong. The count starts when birding starts whether it is daylight or dark and it ends when the last birding stops. Thus, if a group is owling at 4 a.m. then the count starts at 4 a.m. rather than 6:30 when most of the other birders start. The hours in the dark are considered nocturnal and not normal birding hours. They need to be logged separately. Thus, if you are reporting a time span of 12 hours on a normal day of 10 day-light hours at least 2 hours of that day was nocturnal.


I have about 110 CBCs to edit and it is challenging to streamline documentation needs for each CBC. So, I set some generalized state standards which applies to each CBC. If a compiler decides to send documentation on more observations than these standards require that is OK and I will gladly review them.

1. Any species which has not been reported on a CBC at least twice during the last 10 years (excluding this year) and has received no negative editorial codes. Those codes are typically ND (no details), DD (details desired), UD (unconvincing details). You can check past years results at http://netapp.audubon.org/cbcobservation/ to look at results and editorial codes.

2. Any Texas Bird Records Committee review species.

3. Any species which is challenging to identify. Glossy Ibis, Rufous vs Allen’s Hummingbird, Ruby-throated vs Black-chinned Hummingbird, etc.

4. Any extremely large numbers of birds for a species. It would be good to provide documentation to reduce the likelihood I would challenge the number. As an example, one season I challenged a report of 150,000 Greater White-fronted Geese on a California CBC. The closest other CBC tally to this in the Nation was 20,000, and this tally was several times the record tally for the decade for the CBC. I queried the compiler and he only came up with a description of 500 groups of 100. Another example was an inland Louisiana CBC had over 70,000 Ring-billed Gulls. That is an amazing # for the site, but when questioned the compiler came up with a description how a team of birders counted flight lines of gulls using a landfill near Lacassine. This was a very good record.

I don’t have any fixed standard for high counts. If the observations are several times larger than what you would normally expect as a high count then it would be good to document the report describing how these birds were counted.


Count week is defined as from 3 days before to 3 days after your official count day. If your official count day is December 14, then your Count Week extends from Dec 11 to Dec 17 (and can therefore extend outside of the official count period of Dec 14-Jan 5).

Count week (cw) birds serve as a place holder for that species on your checklist in a given season. They are not at all a part of your official census data for that season's day.

Contact Information  

Andrew Ebeerly  



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