The 'Christmas Bird Count' or CBC is a long tradition (see wiki link here) among birders. Perks? It encourages birding during an under-birded time of year as well as covering areas that aren't always included in casual birding. It's essentially a citizen-based bird census that takes place all over the continent between December 14th and January 5th.
Why not celebrate the New Year in a gorgeous part of the state while contributing to science? CBCs are great for people with all levels of bird interest - there's ample opportunity to learn and just because you can't identify them doesn't mean you can't spot them! Also, note-takers are in high demand (without notes, what data have you got?)
For more CBCs check out Houston Audubon's list of Texas Christmas Bird Counts for 2010-2011
In the Big Bend region, we've got a few to CBCs consider:
Sat. Dec. 18 - Davis Mountains
Sun. Dec. 19 - Balmorhea
Contact for both: Marty Hansen, birdsinflight/at/mac.com
Tues. Dec. 28 - Chisos Basin (Big Bend National Park)
Meet at 7:30 am in the visitor center, reconvene in the evening at the Panther Junction auditorium (around 6:00 PM) to compile the day's counts , pay registration fees, and prepare for the next day count.
Weds. Dec. 29 - Rio Grande Village (Big Bend National Park)
Meet at 7:30 am at the Rio Grande Village store. Meet again at Panther Junction auditorium to compile the list in the evening.
Contact for both BBNP counts: Mark Flippo, Mark_R_Flippo/at/nps.gov
Sat. Jan. 1 - Guadalupe Mountains
It is worth noting the dire situation for the Guadalupe Mountains CBC:
Contact: Fred Armstrong, Fred_Armstrong@nps.gov
We have tried to set our count as the last Saturday of the count period every year so that people can routinely make plans. We would welcome the help. Several of our routine participants have died, moved away, aged to the point of not being able to do the hiking, etc., so I have been crying for help over the past couple of years. In the winter some of the park apartments or RV pads are vacant and I can usually offer a place to stay for $8 a person a night so participants can be here at dawn. Stay in touch and let me know if you or others can join us so I can pre-assign coverage areas. Thanks.
Note on dates:
Counts used to start on the "second Saturday in December" and then it was changed to Dec. 14 regardless of day, causing a lot of conflict in areas that have many counts but not enough birders to go around! So when living on the Upper Texas Coast, I could do nearly 20 counts in one season because of ample weekend counts - when the dates changed and counts started to overlap, I was only able to do maybe eight. With only five counts out here, I sure hope there's good attendance!