Monday, November 22, 2010

A History of North GA Christmas Bird Counts

The North Georgia mountains, like much of the state has a sketchy CBC history. This is mostly due to the lack of birders in this portion of the state. Apparently, one of the earliest North GA birding communities formed in Dalton. This is where the first CBC was conducted in this region in 1942, though the count was discontinued after three consecutive years. Since that first count, there have been ten other north georgia circles registered with the National Audubon Society. Some of these were conducted annually for many decades, while some endured only a few seasons. Methods for counting have changed over the years and participant numbers have increased, so the bird numbers are expected to be higher than in the early days. Though this is the case, it is still interesting to dig through these historical records for a better understanding of the count itself. The data collected throughout the years offers an opportunity to compare the present to days gone by.

Only six counts were conducted in the 1940s with 1949 being the first year that two were held during the same season. These were Cartersville and Demorest.

The 1950s had an increase to seventeen counts completed. This decade also saw the rebirth of the Dalton circle that continued on a forty-eight year stretch of consecutive counts. Dalton holds the record in north Georgia for the most counts completed.  It totaled fifty-eight in 2009. It is also one of the oldest counts in the state.

It wasn’t until 1960 that three counts were successfully conducted during the same season. These were at Dalton, Demorest, and Rome. This decade did see an increase to twenty-two counts completed between these three circles. Unfortunately, the counts were limited to the Ridge/Valley and Upper Piedmont leaving the true highlands uncovered for many more years.

The number of counts dropped to nineteen during the 1970s. 1978 was the last year for the Rome Count circle to be conducted. It began in 1955 and was conducted twenty-three years missing only 1974. A new count was registered in 1979 in the Cohutta Wilderness. This was the Chattahoochee National Forest/Birdsong Management Area. This circle has just celebrated its thirtieth count completed in 2009. It stands as the oldest true highland count in Georgia and offers some of the only historical CBC data from that mountainous region.

It wasn’t until 1989 that there were actually four counts conducted in a single year. This was due to the induction of  Amicalola Falls(1987) and Blairsville(1989), formerly the Blood Mountain circle.  There were twenty-four counts completed during this decade.

These same four counts continued until 1993. Amicalola Falls was not conducted between 1994-2001. Blairsville has not been conducted since 1995. There were thirty counts completed in the 1990s.

2000 & beyond
The first ten years of the millennial has seen forty individual counts completed, obviously the most within a decade. The Floyd County circle was registered in 2001. This circle actually includes portions of the old Rome circle that had not been conducted in over twenty years. The Amicalola Falls count was also restarted in 2002.  Two new counts were registered in 2007, these being the Blue Ridge and the Carter’s Lake circles.

For the last three years there have been six counts conducted annually. Three of which are all within the Great Valley District. These are Carter's Lake, Dalton, and Floyd County.

The Chattahoochee National Forest/Birdsong Management Area is split between the Great Valley and the Cohutta Mountain Districts. The Blue Ridge circle covers portions of the Cohutta Mountains, Cherokee Uplands, McCaysville Basin and the Blue Ridge Mountain Districts. The most easterly circle is the Amicalola Falls circle that is split between the Dahlonega Uplands and the Blue Ridge Mountains Districts.

Ridge & Valley Province

Dalton - 1942-1944; 1954-2001; 2003-present

Cartersville - 1949-1952

Rome - 1955 - 1973; 1975-1978

Floyd County - 2001-present

Carter’s Lake - 2007-present

Blue Ridge and Ridge & Valley Provinces 

Chattahoochee National Forest/Birdsong Management Area - 1979-2001; 2003-present

Blue Ridge Province

Blood Mountain - 1957

Blairsville - 1989-1995

 Blue Ridge and Upland Piedmont Provinces

Demorest - 1948-1950; 1952; 1960-1961

Amicalola Falls - 1987-1993; 2002-2005; 2007-present

Blue Ridge - 2007-present

To learn more about the CBC and to explore historical data go to the NAS website below:

I encourage birders to get involved in this valuable project this season. There are many counts to choose from. Georgia's entire CBC schedule can be viewed at the Georgia Ornithological Society's website.

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