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CBC Publication

Dear Carolinabirders,
I e-mailed Geoff Lebaron because I was unclear about all the discussion
about the CBC publication.  He wrote me a somewhat lengthy response.  I will
include it all here in hopes that it will clear up any misunderstanding or
question that you may have about the letter that compilers received.  If you
have any feelings or opinions about what you think should or should not
happen, please let him hear from you.

Ann Shahid, Education Director
Francis Beidler Forest
Audubon State Office
Harleyville, SC

Hello Ann, and hopefully Carolina Birders as well;

I must admit that I am chagrined to learn that my letter to Compilers of
Christmas Bird Counts seeking input about the future shape of the published
results of the CBC has apparently been misinterpreted. My intent with the
statements in that letter was to seek input on this very important matter
from Compilers and Participants of CBC's, and thus allow the National
Audubon Society to proceed in the manner best suited to those people who
purchase the published CBC results.

I would hope this message is taken in the spirit that was intended from the

First and foremost, we do not plan to cease publication of a printed CBC
results volume, an annual publication entitled "American Birds."

Currently under discussion, and thus the request for input in the letter to
Compilers, is the content of future printed CBC issues. The sad fact is that
very few people, for all the discussion, actually purchase the printed CBC
results. Unfortunately the celebratory 100th CBC Issue of American Birds, of
which I am very proud, was only purchased by approximately 1800 people.
Compare that with the fact that this season nearly 2000 issues were given to
Compilers and co-Compilers as a continuing, but small, thank-you for their
hard work. The low subscription number was despite an extra mail-out to the
25,000 members of the American Birding Association and all people who had
purchased CBC issues over the past three years. This season, only about 500
issues were purchased through the mail-in from Compilers after the 100th
Count; this number has declined steadily since the CBC has been available on
line. Hence the necessity of spending around $10,000 for the extra
subscription mailing.

Our current thought is to publish the results of each and every CBC
conducted each season, but in a more summary fashion. Also, of course, the
overall and regional summaries would be published, along with any relevant
photos. The summary form would allow us to further publish articles about
the current and historical uses of the very data that CBC participants have
been collecting for the past century, demonstrating the value of the very
project near and dear to all of us. These are just our thoughts--I reiterate
that no decisions have been made. I would welcome your input--but please
remember for your input to be heard it needs to be sent to me, not just to
this listserve.

Another statement that has apparently ruffled feathers is the discouraging
of data submittal on paper forms, and the elimination of that option after
the upcoming 101st CBC. I apologize if the tone seemed arrogant or
overbearing--unfortunately it is often the case that the introduction
letters written in the CBC packets are skimmed or ignored entirely, and
there is a fine line between underscoring an important point and blatant

The point is that on-line data entry by Compilers, or their assigned
assistant from the CBC, is a far more accurate and timely method of
completing the CBC database each season. The decision is absolutely not
intended to be a "do-or-die" mandate.  On the contrary, we hope that if CBC
Compilers elect not to do their own data entry for whatever reason, that
they should be able to find someone in their CBC circle of contacts-or
perhaps someone in a local Audubon Chapter, Nature Center, or State
Office-to do their data entry on-line. If Compilers have difficulty with
this, I will be happy to help with options to pursue. The first season that
on-line data entry was available over half of all counts were submitted via
that medium; in the 100th Count around 1600 of the 1823 Counts came in
directly on-line from Compilers. It is the future of the CBC.

In the 14 years I have been in charge of the Christmas Bird Count the most
difficult aspect of the program every year is the continual need to explain
the "participant fee." The fact is that Audubon is a not-for-profit
organization, and every penny spent each year needs to be raised annually.
Currently the CBC program, including the database and website where the
Count results are available to all free of charge, costs about $600,000
annually. The monies that come in through the participant fees are about
$200K, only beginning to offset these costs. So far the rest has been
covered by grants and other annual fundraising efforts by NAS staff. We have
no plans to raise the participant fees, despite these numbers. We have been
discussing the fee structure in meetings with Compilers and Participants for
the past 18 months, in the hopes of coming up with a manner of funding the
CBC in a manner that is less unpopular than the per-field-participant fee.
So far nothing viable has arisen. I would hope that participants can view
their monetary contribution to the CBC as an insurance that their data are
handled in the cleanest and most expeditious manner, and present the best
cumulative value to the many birders, researchers, and conservationists
using their data.

Thank you all for reading this somewhat long message. Please remember that
if you do have comments relevant to the future of the CBC, send them to me
as well as to this listserve.

Geoff LeBaron
CBC Director
National Audubon Society
Williamsburg MA