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The Am. Birds Christmas Count issue

	I guess many or most of you by now have received the 102nd Christmas
Bird Count -- 2001-2002 issue of American Birds. Nope, it is hundreds of
pages full of every bird and number seen on all 1500+ counts last year.
It is what Audubon has been clamoring for for several years but have
been met by public outcry. Yes, it is all of 112 pages -- just the names
of the counts, the compilers, etc. There are a couple of summary species
papers, the list of high counts for the US and Canada, etc. But, you
won't see your name in it, the species list or numbers from your count,
the total # of species, etc. There is Ricky Davis' summary of rare birds
and highlights; each region still has the summary.

Thankfully last winter I only poured $10 (2 counts) into this. Usually,
I pour $30 (6 counts) into this, but at least I got to see all the data.
Now, NAS (National Audubon Society) is going with this approach,
claiming it is "an innovative presentation". For this new "book", you
didn't have to order the main volume; it apparently has been sent to
anyone who participated (i.e., chipped in at least $5).

NAS claims that as all the count data are now more readily visible
online, that there is little or no need to print the large volume.
Nowhere do they mention that one reason for the change is financial;
they were losing money on the big volume, as relatively few folks were
ordering the big publication.  Interestingly, I just tried to go online
to view the Cape Hatteras CBC data from 2001. Couldn't get to it!
Several links replied "Sorry. The page you requested is not currently
available." Then, I WAS able to get to the page to make a selection of
state, count circle, and year, only to get nowhere; the count circle
item seems to have a glitch.

Who wants to look at count data this way? Who likes to "read" a
newspaper or magazine online, article by slow article?

The count book makes no mention of the upcoming count season and count
fees, which have been $5 per person, to offset cost of the big tome.
Now, with a little 100-page book, they can't possibly still want $5 per
person per count. Or, could they?

NAS is being very naive about this. The book states "The future is very
bright for the Christmas Bird Count ..." The article by Geoffrey
LeBaron, NAS's count editor, is nothing but positive about the whole
affair! Do they really think that the CBCs are still going to continue
to expand or hold steady, while observers will not be able to see their
results in printed form in a CBC summary? While presumably still paying
a count fee?

I think there will be some urging of Carolina Bird Club and The Chat to
start publishing CBC's, like the Spring Counts/Spring Migration counts
that are published now. I'm not in favor of this, as The Chat is
probably over-taxed as it is with the spring data. But, it's something
to consider. 

Will people still go on counts, if counts will no longer be published?
Will people still pay $5 a count? What about $1, if no counts are

I have no problem with the Breeding Bird Survey and seeing only my own
results, not the results for all 2000 routes on the continent. The Feds
aren't charging fees to participate; they are free, and forms are sent
free of charge, including free postage for mailing the results. Sure,
you have to pay your own gas, get up at 4 am, etc. But, at least I'm not
being conned. I know my results will be used to determine continental
trends for all breeding birds.

As the long-time regional editor for Am. Birds and the CBCs for NC and
SC, I enjoyed the counts and seeing the results published where everyone
could see the counts, side by side. I've turned things over to Ricky
Davis now. I've invested a lot of time and money -- about 180 counts
I've been on, by my best guess, while in the vicinity of $600-700 of
count fees (earlier counts were $2, then $3, then $4, etc.).

I think we'll still see CBCs taken in the Carolinas. But, I suspect some
of them will no longer be submitted to NAS (you can't send them by mail
anymore; it must be submitted on-line, a heinous task for the compiler).
The compiler still has to send a count fee check, plus details of rare
birds. I suspect some compilers will not ask for count fees, and will
still do the count, and tally results and send count results to the
observers a week later, such as many compilers now do. I am sure some
observers will refuse to pay ANY count participation fee.
It will be VERY interesting to see how much, if anything, NAS will be
charging for count fees this year. We probably won't know until the
count packets are sent to compilers in a few months. As for me, I can't
live with this situation -- I won't do a count if it isn't published for
everyone to see, and I don't mean on-line. Especially if I have to pay
even a penny, much less $5, for each count I go on.

I'll be making other plans for the holidays. Last year Ecuador; this
year, who knows?

Good non-CBC birding.

Harry LeGrand
NC Natural Heritage Program
1615 MSC
Raleigh, NC 27699-1615
(919) 715-8687 (work)
FAX: 919-715-3085
e-mail: harry.legrand@ncmail.net