A Founding Mother of the CBC
25 bird counts were held on December 25th, 1900 marking the inaugural year of the CBC. Of these counts only 1 took place in the southern United States and a single volunteer, Mrs. L. G. Baldwin, counted birds and reported the results. Eight species, “Killdeer, Blue Jay, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Redwinged Blackbird, grackle species, Mockingbird and Turkey Buzzard,” made up this first southern count in Baldwin, Louisiana. Mrs. Baldwin once again conducted her own CBC in 1901, this time adding the, “Red-headed Woodpecker, a crow species, Tufted Titmouse and Ruby-Crowned Kinglet,” to her list.
Though there are no further records of Mrs. Baldwin’s participation in a CBC she did publish an article in American Ornithology in 1903. Expressing concern over the Cardinal Grosbeak’s uncertain fate, Mrs. Baldwin’s article shows us the importance of Audubon programs like the Christmas Bird Count which shifted American focus from hunting and capturing birds to counting and photographing birds. The Cardinal Grosbeak, now called the Northern Cardinal, is a living example of the impact of Audubon and other conservation groups. In the 110th CBC 209,216 Northern Cardinals were counted in the United States.
Here is an excerpt from Mrs. Baldwin’s 1903 article.
“It was my privilege last season, to enjoy an intimate relation to my bird neighbors. They came fearlessly to pick up the food scattered for them; and the bird table in the rose garden was a popular resort and daily amusement for me. The robber Blue Jays took their repast with an air of insolence and greed, and not contented with all they could eat, they carried away food for future use, with a boisterous clatter that was exasperating.
A pair of Cardinals were the loveliest of all my feathered friends. They came for food timidly, and they were afraid of the Mocking Bird especially. The female was sick and the tender solicitude of its mate was beautiful. The male bird took a crumb from the table and carried it to his mate, but the bird was too ill for food, and later I found her cold and lifeless on the ground. Tears of sadness filled my eyes, and resentment also, for I detected evidence that a cruel sling shot was the cause of the pathetic fate of the bird.
The brilliant plumage of the cardinals makes its end a tragedy. In Louisiana they are hunted and trapped for sale, as cage birds, until they are nearly exterminated. Their pathetic fate appeals to bird lovers, and unless something can be done for their protection the Cardinal Grosbeak will be gone from the wild bird life of this state.”