Visitors have come to town — and we don't mean the cousins camped out on your couch for the holidays.
We're talking about ruby crowned kinglets, orange crown warblers, yellow rumped warblers, goldfinches and cedar waxwings — all the birds that make Louisiana their temporary homes at this time of year.
Winter is also when the Christmas Bird Count, the largest birding event of the year, takes place.
From Dec. 14 through Jan. 5, in one of the world's largest citizen science efforts, binocular-clutching volunteers throughout the Northern Hemisphere scan prairies, parks and coasts looking for birds.
This count, administered by the National Audubon Society, has been taking place since 1900.
In Louisiana, the count takes place in about 30 locations on different dates during that time period, said Erik Johnson, director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Louisiana.
The count is set for Saturday, Jan. 4, in Baton Rouge and Monday, Dec. 30, in Lafayette. To find out more or to sign up to participate, visit audubon.maps.arcgis.com. You must be registered to participate.
Each count takes place in an established 15-mile-wide diameter circle under the direction of a compiler. Volunteers follow specific routes and count every bird — not just a specific species — they see or hear that day.
All data is compiled and sent to a national database, which scientists study to make bird population estimates. In the past 50 years, the data shows, North America has lost almost 3 billion birds, about a third of its bird population.
These bird losses signal development has altered landscapes and they are losing their ability to support bird life, the experts say.
In addition to the Christmas count, the Great Backyard Bird Count, another citizen science project, will be conducted Feb. 14-17.
Volunteers are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes — or as long as they wish — on one or more days of the four-day event and report their findings at birdcount.org. Anyone can take part in the bird count from beginning birdwatchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard or anywhere in the world. The event is supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.
Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater Baton Rouge seeks to advance awareness, understanding, and stewardship of the natural environment. For more information, email email@example.com.