If 105 years of tradition are any indication of its popularity, tens of thousands of birding enthusiasts will take part in this edition of the annual Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the National Audubon Society that started yesterday and will end Jan. 5.
The bird census is a chance for experts and amateurs alike to help the world's premier bird conservation group track the rise and decline of feathered species and their habitats. Last year, 23 groups across Maryland conducted counts, including one at the Inner Harbor (you can read the report at audubon.org).
The beauty is, you can get involved with others in a field count, or you can count the birds at your backyard feeder and enter results on the Audubon Web site. The Inner Harbor group is counting Saturday while the Annapolis group is counting Jan. 1. If the holidays prevent you from participating, you can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count on Feb. 17-20 (birdsource.org).
There are plenty of birding books out there to help with identification. National Geographic's new volume, Complete Birds of North America ($35), is a large, hardbound volume best used from the comfort of one's indoor viewing area. The National Audubon Society's The Sibley Guide to Birds ($35) is a soft-cover book written and illustrated by world-renowned expert David Allen Sibley. The Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America ($18.95), by Kenn Kaufman, is more suitable to slip into a field coat or small backpack.
Team one of those books with a good set of glasses, such as Nikon's 8x40 ($105 list, but deep online discounts) waterproof binoculars, and have a field day.