The Christmas bird count first took place on Christmas day in 1900. It is the world's longest-running citizen science project and was created by famed ornithologist Frank Chapman, who also founded what is now Audubon Magazine.
The bird count began as an alternative to "side hunts," a horrible tradition that allowed teams of hunters to spend the day shooting as many birds and animals as they could. The hunters took great pleasure in doing so. Mr. Chapman decided to organize groups of like-minded nature lovers and help make people aware of these beautiful feathered creatures.
There were 27 participants for the first bird count; that number has grown to about 73,000 in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Bermuda, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. One wonderful thing is how many people care about birds, and one bad thing is the decline of populations of many of our bird species. Caring bird watchers in our area brave cold, damp and sometimes rainy weather to count our birds. My sister Catherine helped this year with the count and fortunately was spared Mother Nature's wrath.
On behalf of all birds and bird lovers, I thank you, Mr. Chapman.
Google his name, and you will find that he was a very interesting person.
I was listening to NPR the other day, and on the program was an engineer talking about "standardizing." During the Industrial Revolution, it became evident that interchangeable parts needed to be the same. Thomas Edison standardized the screw base size and thread dimensions of electric light bulbs, but items such as screws, nuts and bolts needed to be the same everywhere.
Railroad track gauges for rail cars and locomotives needed to be the same; otherwise the trains couldn't operate on the tracks of other railroads. Before tracks were standardized, the trains had to be unloaded and reloaded at every change of track. Pipe sizes, shoe sizes, electrical wiring, voltage and frequency and electrical devices all needed to be the same.
As we began using and making many items, it became clear that standardizing products was very important. You even had to endure a "standardized" test at every turn in school -- ghastly though it was. Higher-ups wanted to find out if we were keeping up with each other in school work.
It was also a means of producing goods in a more usable and cost-effective way. This will be even more important in the future, as countries such as China become more involved in mass production. Customer needs around the world will be affected by the savings realized from standards in manufacturing.
The future looks very bright for engineers in all fields. The world is your "oyster" -- and if you're from Bluffton, that should mean a lot. Clemson University and other South Carolina schools of higher learning are waiting for you.
I have a new word for you ... "grinkle." A grinkle is a smile crease. Like a smile that sticks.
It is all about the birds again. Wilderness Southeast, a nonprofit educational organization, will lead a bird-scouting tour of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge from 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 19. Diana Churchill, a well-known naturalist and author, will lead the tour. Cost is $30 a person and $15 for children younger than 12. Children must be accompanied by their parents.
Binoculars and a spotting scope will be provided, but I recommend bringing your own. Reservations are required by calling 912-236-8115 or emailing naturesavannah@gmail.
Jan. 23 brings another interesting item you might be interested in. The Coastal Discovery Museum will host Peggy Pickett, an author, historian and re-enactor who will tell the story about the raising of indigo in our area. Indigo is used in the production of blue dye and during the 18th century was a very important crop that helped make many South Carolinians very wealthy. Indigo plantations were in the coastal area, and one was on Pinckney Island.
The event is free to members of the museum, $10 for others. Details: 843-689-6767, ext. 223.
Babbie Guscio is the social columnist for The Bluffton Packet. She can be reached at The Store on Calhoun Street.