This year’s news hasn’t been positive when it comes to U.S. bird populations though it is not for a lack of love in northeastern Indiana.

Audubon Christmas Bird Counts are held annually, based out of Pokagon State Park in Steuben County, Pigeon River State Fish and Wildlife Area straddling Steuben and LaGrange counties, Gene Stratton-Porter Historic Site in Rome City and Topeka in LaGrange County.

The National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science survey. From Dec. 14 to Jan. 5, birders will participate in the 120-year-old tradition.

This year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count will mobilize more than 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,500 locations across the Western Hemisphere. Indiana hosts more than 50 individual count locations each year.

The results are kept by the Audubon Society for use by ornithologists, “a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months,” said a news release from the Indiana Audubon Society.

A Cornell University report released in September shows that nearly 30% of the birds in the United States and Canada have vanished since 1970. The study’s lead author, Ken Rosenberg, an applied conservation scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said, “It’s a strong signal that our human-altered landscapes are losing their ability to support bird life ... And that is an indicator of a coming collapse of the overall environment.”

KPC columnist Neil Case, a retired naturalist who lives near Albion and worked for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, consistently writes of local bird population decline. Case often links his concerns to global warming.

Statistics provided by the Christmas Bird Count assist in studies and reports that can help people understand the natural world now and hypothesize about what it might be like when today’s children are parents themselves.

People of all ages can join the counts, said the news release.

They are done in 15-mile diameter areas, organized by local volunteers. Some counters also watch bird feeders.

The 40th annual Pokagon Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, Dec. 28. Participants will gather at Pokagon State Park’s Potawatomi Inn at 7:45 a.m. and disperse in teams.

“Birders should bring their own birding optics and dress for a day in the field,” said organizer Fred Wooley. To register, contact Wooley at 495-3307 or 243-0513 or email fwooley@frontier.com. Registration deadline is Dec. 26.

For the Pigeon River State Fish and Wildlife Area count, contact Joe Smith at joe.smith@kidszoo.org or 515-0928 by 6 p.m. on Monday.

Dave Fox will lead the count at the Gene Stratton-Porter site on Dec. 17.

“Owling may begin before sunrise and we will meet at noon to discuss the first half of the CBC and for a hot lunch,” says event information. Additional counting will continue after lunch if participants desire.

The 15-mile circle includes several ACRES Land Trust properties, Sylvan Lake and a portion of Chain O’ Lakes State Park.

To sign up, contact Fox at dfox@indianamuseum.org.

The Topeka count is organized by Perry Miller, 574-642-1135, and Leland Shaum, sleepyck@maplenet.net or 574-202-0015. Because many youth and Amish participate, there is a need for drivers. All are invited to a supper after the Dec. 23 count.

For information about other counts, go to indianaaudubon.org/bird-counts.

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