Join us for the Toppenish NWR Christmas Count on Dec. 14 and the 50th Yakima Valley Christmas Count on Dec. 28

Christmas Bird Count season will be upon us soon. We can escape from the hustle and bustle of the more normal Christmas season, get outdoors and enjoy a day or two of birding in our varied winter weather. We will also be contributing to the longest-running bird census in the world in which people who are not professional scientists are gathering the data. The Christmas Bird Count started in New York State in 1900 and has spread through the years to Canada, Mexico, Central America and into South America.

All birders are encouraged to participate in the Christmas Bird Counts. Don’t be worried if you think your birding skills aren’t good enough to make a contribution. CBCs are a good way to learn more about birds and birding. Each route has one or more experienced birders who are excited to help others gain more experience.

The Toppenish NWR CBC is on Dec. 14, with Eric Heisey ( returning as compiler. This will be the 37th Toppenish NWR CBC, which started in 1983. The count circle covers most of the Toppenish NWR, as well as all of Toppenish and Wapato, plus a lot of the farm areas to the east and west of them. After the day of counting birds, we will meet at Debie and Ron Brown’s house for the compilation dinner and to discuss our day’s birding adventures. The chapter provides pizza with everyone bringing potluck items and beverages.

The Yakima Valley CBC is on Dec. 28, with Denny Granstrand ( as compiler. This will be the 50th Yakima Valley CBC, so we should plan on doing something grand to celebrate - like breaking the all-time count record of 97 species, which was set in 2015! Perhaps this will be the first year of hitting 100 species. The Yakima Valley count circle covers the Yakima Valley from east of Moxee to West Valley, much of Selah and a little bit south of the Union Gap. The compilation dinner after the count is at Andy and Ellen Stepniewski’s house. Ellen makes two types of soup and everyone brings potluck items and beverages.

The weather is the great definer of Christmas Bird Counts. Fog and rain can diminish the birders’ enthusiasm and the species total more than anything (except, maybe, a government shutdown, which in the current era of confrontational politics is always a possibility). Dress for the cold weather wearing layers that can be shed if the day warms up, bring binoculars and spotting scope, if you have one, food and beverages and the anticipation of a fun day of birding. We look forward to seeing you!

If you would like to explore the data from our CBCs or others around the country, go to: Scroll down to and click on the “Christmas Bird Count, CBC Results” box.

-Denny Granstrand