Information for Count Participants

Below you'll find sections on "Useful Documents", "What to Do Before Count Day," "What to Do On Count Day," "What to Bring," and "The Countdown Dinner."


  • Sign up with the count compiler by sending email to Carl Giometti. You will be assigned to one of the six areas of the count circle. The area coordinator will be in touch with you regarding details of your assignment.
  • Confirm with your area coordinator the meeting time and location, or what area you are to cover.
  • RSVP to Christine Williamson if you will be attending the countdown dinner (details on the Countdown Dinner page) - we must have a firm head count! There is a limited number of seats at the dinner, so if you are not pre-registered you will not be able to attend. The countdown dinner is a lot of fun - don't miss it! Please decide ahead of time and let Christine know if you'll be attending the dinner.
  • Arrange to get your count numbers to the area coordinator. If you will not be at the countdown dinner and you'll have bird counts to give your area coordinator, make arrangements ahead of time to get your numbers to someone who will be at the dinner.
  • Review the "What to Bring" and the "What to Do on Count Day" sections below.
  • Print a copy of the tally sheet and documentation form for reference or use on count day.
  • Keep track of Count Week birds - if you can, keep track of sightings of unusual birds in the count circle for the period from three days before the count to three days after. If these birds are not found on the count day, they can be reported as "count week" birds.

WHAT TO DO ON COUNT DAY: these are just a few basic pointers and reminders of what goes on. Sometimes keeping track of the numbers falls to only one member of a party, but we need everyone's eyes finding birds so knowing the whole story is useful for everyone. Your area coordinator is the one to ask to find out what specific things among those below you may not need to worry about.

  • Count up how many birds you see and note how many of each kind of bird - that's the basic idea behind a bird count. You will be counting birds in your "territory," that portion of the count circle that has been assigned to your by your Area Coordinator. Keep track of the numbers that you see on the tally sheet (or in a notebook, for later transfer to the tally sheet).
  • Avoid double counting - this is done through a variety of means. If walking down a trail and then coming back the sameway, avoid counting the same birds both as you come and as you go. If you visit the same "hotspot" more than once during the day, the largest number for just one visit is the total that you mark down for that species. If you see a group of uncommon birds flying out of your territory and heading into someone else's, make a mental note of it. At the countdown dinner, you can ask the party covering that other territory if they saw the same birds, and if so make arrangements to avoid a double count. One year we had a flock of 40 Tundra Swans that were spotted flying over two different areas.
  • Keep track of "party miles" and "party hours" - Each party must keep track of the number of hours spent birding by foot and the number of hours spent birding by car, along with miles covered by foot and by car. Please remember that the term "party" refers to a group of birders traveling together. If a party splits into two parties for part of the time, that time counts twice. Record party hours/miles on the tally sheet. Each area leader should total these statistics for all parties in the area and record them on the composite tally sheet. Follow this link for examples of how to add up your party miles and hours.
  • Keep separate track of daylight hours and miles and owling hours and miles - daylight hours for 2013 are from 6:41 AM to 4:51 PM (or from a quarter before 7 until a quarter before 5 if you want to round off). All other hours are counted as "owling." Feeder hours also are counted separately (for feeder observers only).
  • Get your numbers to the area coordinator - do this during the count, at the countdown dinner or make some arrangement so that your numbers do get to your area coordinator before the countdown dinner. We don't want the final tally at the countdown dinner to be off by your numbers of birds! Since all the information that is needed can be obtained from tally sheet with all sections completed, an easy way to pass on your numbers is by passing over the completed tally sheet.
  • Get your Code 4 documentations to the area coordinator - code 4 birds without documentation cannot be included in the final totals, so please write up that documentation (it needn't be fancy) so we can count your good birds (and so those future researchers get to see evidence of the sighting).

WHAT TO BRING: Your day will be more pleasant and more productive if you bring the following items with you to the count.

  • Binoculars - absolutely a must since you really won't be able to see the birds without them!
  • Warm clothing - you'll be spending a lot of time outdoors and it might be cold, wet, or (aargh!) cold and wet. Dressing in layers leaves you flexible, since you'll want to lighten up on clothing for a vigorous walk, but put on more clothing when standing or sitting still for long periods of time (like waiting for the cold car you're sitting in to warm up after that vigorous walk). Having an outer layer that blocks the wind can be a really big boost to warmth.
  • Sturdy footwear - and waterproof, too, if the weather calls for it
  • Food and drink - enough to last you through your birding periods. Some people stop for fast food or grab a quick bite at a restaurant at midday. Others pack a lunch to be more flexible, stopping only for some hot coffee or cocoa and a warm bathroom break. Whichever, you'll want to have at least something to snack on during the day. And bringing something to drink keeps away the fatigue that comes with dehydration. Plain water always works great, but many have their favorite birding drinks.
  • Tally sheet - bring a tally sheet showing the birds that you'll be counting that day. Print out a copy if you don't have one already. Even if you're with a group and someone else is taking the official count, you may from time to time be off on your own or with just a few others and you'll need to jot down what you're seeing. It's also helpful to see what isn't on the tally sheet, since that means it's a bird that we will ask you to document.
  • Documentation form - if you do need to "doc" a bird, the way you do it is to fill out this form. Birds that require documenation are the one's that don't appear on the tally sheet. We call those "Code 4" birds. It's useful to take a quick look at the doc form before you go out. That way, you'll be prepared if you happen to see one of those special Code 4 birds. Since these birds are either out of range or unusual at this time of year, we want to keep better records that researchers years from now can look at as evidence of the sighting.

COUNTDOWN DINNER: At the end of count day many of the count participants gather for a "Countdown Dinner" to socialize, celebrate the day's accomplishments, and to total up the day's sightings. See the Countdown Dinner page for details.

Last modified on 23 October 2017
by Geoffrey A. Williamson