Bird enthusiasts have fanned out across San Francisco and northern San Mateo County Thursday to take part in the Golden Gate Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count.
Bird count organizer and compiler Dan Murphy said this morning that about 125 volunteers in 18 teams had headed out to various spots, counting as many birds and species as possible between sunrise and sunset.
"We have a team downtown, one in Fort Mason, one in the Presidio, one at Lands End," Murphy said. "We have three separate teams at Ocean Beach."
Golden Gate Audubon Society spokeswoman Ilana Debare, who joined teams combing the coast near the Cliff House and in the Presidio, said the clear weather was making it a great day for bird watching.
"We really lucked out," she said. "It's a beautiful day, great visibility."
Additional teams were stationed south of the city in South San Francisco, Colma, and Sharp Park in Pacifica, Murphy said.
The San Francisco-area bird count has taken place since 1983. It is one of 20 that occur in the Bay Area each year and one of more than 2,000 that happen throughout North America between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, Murphy said.
The results are compiled into a national scientific database that helps promote the conservation of threatened habitats, guide local development projects, monitor the status of threatened bird populations, and detect patterns in weather phenomena, Murphy said.
In 2011, 176 separate species and 60,704 individual birds were tallied in the San Francisco count, Murphy said.
"I think that was a record for us," he said.
The results of today's count will discussed at a dinner at the Presidio tonight.
"The only thing that I would add is that the Christmas Bird Counts have been going for over 100 years," said birder and biologist Alvaro Jaramillo, who leads bird tours around the world. "The start was to dissuade people from the traditional Christmas bird hunt, where people went out to shoot birds throughout the east. Frank Chapman figured that the tradition could be changed to one where people counted birds instead of shot them, and it worked."
Jaramillo adds that right now the Christmas Bird Counts are pretty much the oldest bird monitoring dataset in the world.
"They are volunteer run, and performed by average folks (citizen science) rather than professionals. It’s a unique setup that has worked and keeps on working to track bird populations."
— Bay City News
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