Birds: Gateway to Nature Conservation
If you are a bird lover, you are not alone. Many Master NaturalistsTM credit backyard bird watching as the interest that brought them into the program. After all, to conserve birds, one must first understand and appreciate the ecosystems that sustain them.
Every year for more than 100 years volunteers participate in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Master NaturalistsTM with partner conservation organizations rally the public to get outside with binoculars in hand and count every feathered head they see for science. The leader (Compiler) of a CBC collects all that raw data from smaller groups within the circle and submits it to Audubon. Everyone who participates are people dedicated to conserving the avian community.
From that data we have learned that in our counties – Fort Bend, Waller, Wharton – some of the most iconic grassland birds are disappearing. Bobwhite quail, prairie-chicken, and meadowlarks are rarely heard in spring anymore except at wildlife refuges and protected areas, miles outside the Houston suburbs where they used to proliferate. The data lets organizations know where to focus conservation efforts; TMNCPC partners Wildlife Habitat Federation, Nature Conservancy in Texas, Native Prairies Association of Texas, and Coastal Prairie Conservancy all work to improve and expand a coastal prairie landscape that has otherwise been lost and fragmented by development.
Data collected over the years doesn’t just show downward trends. Some birds like the green jay and long-billed thrasher are moving northward into Texas, expanding their range with warming temperatures. We enjoy other success stories too, like that of the bald eagle along the Brazos River or brown pelicans along the coast. During CBCs, we count them all!
Bird conservation helps everyone, not just birds. Restoring habitats for birds helps landowners and hunters, whole communities of people who also enjoy clean air and water, a reconnecting to our heritage and creating a refuge for all, a sense of place. Christmas Bird Counts remind us that conservation starts with hanging up a backyard feeder or planting locally native plants. The simplest of actions are needed: observe, identify, and count the bird right in front of you.
Fort Bend Area CBCs
Nationwide thousands of people are doing the same thing on the same day. They use eBird to turn in what they count within a circle or join a group of people on a count walk. Don’t be surprised to see a group of folks in a parking lot gawking and pointing with binoculars on their faces. Young and old come together to meet new faces – people and birds! (New birds are called “Lifers,” new people, “Friends.”)
Find a CBC December 14th until January 1st near you. TMNCPC partner Houston Audubon Society advertise a more complete list of Houston area counts, but here is where you’ll find many TMN Coastal Prairie Chapter members.
- December 16 – Brazos Bend State Park | https://brazosbendcbc.weebly.com
- December 16 – Long Point Ranch | https://txmn.org/coastal/event/vsp-2023-brazos-bend-christmas-bird-count-at-the-james-b-harrison-long-point-ranch/
- December 19 – Fort Bend County (includes Seabourne Creek, Cullinan Park, River Park Nature Trails, Long Acres Ranch) | https://txmn.org/coastal/event/vsp-fort-bend-christmas-bird-count/
- December 21 – Wharton Peach Creek | https://txmn.org/coastal/event/vsp-2023-wharton-peach-creek-christmas-bird-count-james-b-harrison-burr-property-2/
- January 1 – Katy Prairie / Cypress Creek
Learn About Counting Birds
- Houston Audubon | Christmas Bird Counts 2023
- National Audubon | State of the Birds 2022 Publication
- Merlin Bird ID | Learn who the birds are with the app for your smartphone!
- eBird | Count birds in your backyard