The Friends of Rose Lake is holding its annual Christmas bird count on Saturday, Dec. 14.

The Fort Atkinson count has been conducted every year since the early 1970s, and is an excellent chance for local birders to be afield and see just how many species and numbers can be counted in just that one day. People with active bird feeders also contribute to the count.

This count is the longest-running wildlife census in the nation. More than 100 such counts are held in Wisconsin alone with the reports used to access the health of bird populations and help guide conservation action in North America.

Before the turn of the century, the custom was to a have a Christmas bird hunt to see how many birds could be killed in one day. The National Audubon Society thought a bird census made more sense and in 1900 the first “bird count” was held.

The rules state that birds are counted on one day only with the date to fall between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. Count areas must be registered with the Audubon Society and can be 15 miles in diameter. Participants are assigned sections to cover to help keep an accurate count.

At the November meeting of the Friends of Rose Lake, members were organized into groups and given areas to cover. Last year, eight groups, with the help of people counting at their feeders, found 51 different species with numbers in the thousands. The high numbers come from the large flocks of starlings found at area dairy and cattle feeding operations. Anyone interested in joining this year’s count should contact Dick Wanie at (920) 563-6274.

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