Buffalo Bayou Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was first held in 1978.
It was established to document the birds on the west side of Houston,
Texas, a part of the city containing good habitat yet also subject to fairly
rapid residential and commercial development.
After having been the most popular southeast Texas CBC in recent years,
on 4 January 2003 this count became the most popular CBC in Texas in the 103rd
CBC season: the 26th Buffalo Bayou CBC's 136 participants were
tops in the state, besting the second place
finisher by 13 observers.
is the only CBC within Houston (not to be confused with the inaccurately-named
Houston CBC, which is actually in Baytown and vicinity -- that's because when
the Houston CBC was started, it was the only CBC in the area, so the founders
named it after where they were based, i.e., in Houston, rather than where they
were counting). The Buffalo Bayou
CBC is centered at the Houston Audubon Society's Edith L. Moore Nature
Sanctuary. It extends from Memorial
Park on the east to beyond Highway 6 on the west; from the Southwest Freeway at
West Belt on the south to FM 529 near Jersey Village on the north. This area includes sizeable chunks of excellent habitat.
The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, Art Storey Park, Barker
Reservoir (including Cullen-Barker Park), Addicks Reservoir (including Cullen
Park), Bear Creek Park, and Buffalo Bayou provide woodlands, bottomlands, brush,
prairie remnants, and open water. Waders,
ducks, hawks, shorebirds, woodpeckers, and songbirds (including a dozen or more
species of sparrows each year) are all represented.
Woodcock are sometimes seen at dusk, as well as Barn, Great Horned, and
Barred Owls, Eastern Screech-Owl, and more rarely Common Nighthawk.
A Harlan's form Red-tailed Hawk once wintered for over 5 years along
Alief-Clodine Road near Eldridge, and for two winters a Harris' Hawk stayed not
far from there. In January 2003,
stormy weather brought in a variety of unusual species including Vermilion
Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, Tropical Parula, and American Redstart (plus a
Western Tanager during Count Week). We
have a resident and thriving colony of Monk Parakeets in Alief.
Almost anything can stray in from the less developed areas around
Houston: Roseate Spoonbill, White
and White-faced Ibis, Royal Tern, Common Goldeneye, Redhead, Hooded Merganser,
Caracara, Sandhill Crane, Short-eared Owl, and Sprague's Pipit have all been
recorded. The western portion of
the circle contains brush that occasionally attracts western species such as
Bewick's Wren, Pyrrhuloxia, Common Ground Dove, and Green-tailed Towhee.
And of course the count always produces lots of the more expected city
residents: chickadees, titmice,
cardinals, several kinds of woodpeckers, kinglets, crows, Blue Jays, wrens,
grackles, Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers, and House Sparrows.
this is within the Houston city limits.
is what attracts many participants — finding what's right here in our own
backyard, seeing what can make a go of it in the urban environment.
The results also provide an indication of the long-term status of
Houston's avian populations. Already we have seen some trends emerging for some species.
For example, White-tailed Kites, once seen every year in the fields along
Highway 6 south of Westheimer, are now observed only rarely, having been edged
out by widespread development. Nearby,
White-tailed Hawks, which made their appearance in the mid-1980s after having
nested in Barker Reservoir for the first time, are no longer seen since the
shooting range in Cullen-Barker Park was built right on top of their nest site.
Conversely, the count has documented the recent increases of White-winged
Dove and Eurasian Collared-Dove.
so much of this CBC area is residential, Feeder Watchers (those who stay at home
and observe their feeder, yard, and/or neighborhood) are extremely important to
the count and greatly increase the efficiency of the count by observing species
that otherwise would not be seen, such as hummingbirds (Rufous is seen every
year; Broad-tailed, Anna's, Black-chinned, and Ruby-throated have also been
observed), White-winged Dove, Ringed-turtle Dove, Summer Tanager, and Bullock's
You don't need a lot of
experience to help; and Feeder Watchers don't have to pay the participation fee.
1989 began the three worst consecutive years of weather to afflict a
Houston-area CBC. In December of
that year, count day dawned at 4°F
Doug Williams and his party rescued a Wilson's Warbler whose feet had frozen to
an icy cable overhanging Buffalo Bayou.
next year, morning ice storms kept attendance down and left at least one party's
vehicle damaged. Finally, in
December 1991, rains were so torrential that the party in our most productive
area called it quits at 9:00 a.m. -- they simply couldn't use their binoculars!
its early years, the Buffalo Bayou CBC drew barely enough participants to
adequately census the count circle, with totals of about 100 species.
In 1984, the count circle was shifted slightly westward, to its present
location, greatly increasing the habitat diversity by including part of Barker
Reservoir – species counts jumped to around 110.
(This location shift occurred because of record-keeping problems during
the first few years of the count regarding the exact location of the circle --
not because of a desire simply to increase species numbers.)
Recently, the loyal following has grown as more and more people have
discovered how much fun this count can be; and with the additional observers
have come species totals in excess of 120.
entire history of Buffalo Bayou CBC results can be found on the
Audubon Society's CBC web site.