"MCKINNEY -- Walking on a heavily wooded trail by a north Texas pond, Craig Miller spots a large white bird lifting up from the water's edge.
'Good, we got a great egret,' said Miller, adding it to the list of close to 60 species sighted by early afternoon on the cold, crisp day after Christmas at the Heard Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney, a fast-growing city just north of Dallas.
Miller and a his group of three other volunteers are part of an army of tens of thousands of citizen scientists taking part nationwide in Audubon's annual Christmas bird count, which started on December 14 and ends on January 5.
This season marks the count's 110th year, making it the longest-running wildlife census on record and one that has contributed hugely to data about changing bird ranges linked to global warming and habitat change.
Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society, said 'there are hundreds and hundreds of scientific publications based on Christmas bird count data.'"
Ed Stoddard reports for Reuters December 30, 2009.