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Almost time for the Christmas Bird Count

’Tis the season for annual Christmas Bird Counts. CBCs evolved from the first event held Dec. 25, 1900 conducted at 25 localities by 27 participants concentrated primarily in the northeast to a continent-wide event with 2160 counts and 60,573 participants in 2010.

The CBC also has the distinction of being the first and longest-running citizen science project in history. The counts are held as one-day (24 hour) events at each locality during the period from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. Participants at each count circle divide into groups to canvass as much of a 15-mile diameter circle as possible to record the bird species and numbers of individuals they find. The Grand Strand area has two local CBCs, the Winyah Bay and Litchfield/Pawleys Island counts, scheduled for Dec. 17 and Dec. 30, respectively. If you’d like to participate in either (or both) of these counts, contact Lex Glover for the Winyah Bay count at gloverl@dnr.sc.gov or Chris Hill at chill@coastal.edu for the Litchfield/Pawleys Island count.

For those who maintain hummingbird feeders during winter, it’s vitally important to make sure those do not freeze. Hummingbirds may need to feed before dawn on a sub-freezing morning, and a frozen feeder is of no help to them. The easiest method I’m aware of to keep hummer feeders from freezing is to use a clip-on shop light with an incandescent bulb. This type of lamp is inexpensive and available at home improvement, hardware, big box stores, etc. A 40- to 60-watt bulb mounted 18 inches or so from the feeder and left on during the night will keep the feeder solution from freezing, and keep you from having to get up and outside before dawn to make sure your tiny winter guests have access to their high-energy breakfast.

Do not use heat lamp, infra-red or sunlamp bulbs as these generate too much heat and can melt plastic feeder parts. Also, don’t use fluorescent bulbs as they won’t generate enough heat to keep feeder solutions from freezing. Lastly, DO NOT increase the sugar concentration of the solution. Research has shown hummingbirds glean nearly all the sugar from their food. Increasing the sugar concentration of feeder solutions can lead to disastrous results for the birds; as winter hummers have been found exhibiting lethargic behavior and suffering with edema, especially in the head and throat area when feeding at feeders with too high sugar content. In some cases the birds were observed to recover when the feeder solution was returned to more normal sugar levels.

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