Find out who’s really tweeting at a Christmas bird count

Ken Harte

COUNTING BIRDS Don Macfarlane of Stow has a favorite tradition this time of year, and it doesn’t involve sleigh bells, sugarplum fairies, or long lines. Macfarlane is among the naturalists, professional and amateur alike, across North, South, and Central America who take part in the National Audubon Christmas Bird Count, in which birders gather at designated areas to spend the day tallying and logging all the birds they see.

Christmas Bird Counts don’t actually take place on Christmas Day, Macfarlane explains, but on various dates between mid-December and early January. Macfarlane will head up the efforts of the Friends of the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge based in Harvard, Ayer, and Shirley on Sunday, Dec. 20, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“A highlight every year is just getting out there, waking up, feeling good,” said Macfarlane. “And another highlight is discovering what you’re going to see that day.”


Macfarlane particularly enjoys his annual sighting of a pair of ravens in Harvard that he hopes to see for a third time this year. “Ravens may not be an interesting bird, but seeing them in December tells us they’re staying here all year,” he said.

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Rona Balco, president of the Friends of the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, agrees that it’s interesting to spot different birds every year – but it can also be sobering. The fact that the Christmas Bird Count now regularly includes sightings of blue jays and cardinals, which used to reliably migrate, is evidence of global warming, Balco said.

Macfarlane encourages members of the public who are interested in birds to give the bird count a try. Dress warmly, he cautions, and be prepared to move slowly as you enjoy a day outdoors.

To join the Christmas Bird Count at the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge for all or part of the day, just show up at 8 a.m. at the starting point on Still River Road in Harvard at the National Wildlife Refuge Sign. Dress for cold, adverse weather and bring binoculars, lunch, and a drink. For information call Don Macfarlane at 978-897-7567.

SANTA’S GONE TO THE DOGS Pets and their owners are welcome to pose for photos with Santa (left) on Sunday, Dec. 13, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Solomon Pond Mall, 601 Donald Lynch Blvd., Marlborough. Pets must be leashed or crated. Reserve space by going to www.simon.com/petphoto.


TEENS ON STAGE Freelance Players, an acting troupe of teens ages 12-16 from a dozen metropolitan Boston communities, stage their final performance of “This Midville Majestic,” written by mystery writer Ned White, directed by Kippy Dewey and with a score by Narcissa Campion, on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2 p.m. at the Park School, 171 Goddard Ave., Brookline. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children. Tickets sold only at the door. For more information call 617-274-6065 or visit www.freelanceplayers.org

CHAMBER MUSIC The Carlisle Chamber Orchestra (left) performs holiday music including classical and popular seasonal favorites, Bach Brandenburg No. 3 and music from “Frozen” on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the Corey Auditorium at the Carlisle Public School, Church St., Carlisle. Suggested donation is $15 per adult; children free. For more information, go to www.CCOrch.org .

HOLIDAY CONCERT Metrowest Symphony Orchestra performs a holiday concert on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 3 p.m. at Joseph P. Keefe Technical High School, 750 Winter St., Framingham. Highlights include Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances with traditional holiday tunes performed by students from Berklee School of Music, directed by Rene Pfister; and 9-year-old violinist Keila Wakao (below) performing the first movement of Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Major” and the solo violin part of Massenet’s “Meditation” from Thaïs; and a holiday sing-along. Tickets are $20 adults; $10 students/seniors; free for children 12 and under. For tickets or more information, call 508-686-3100 or go to www.metrowestsymphony.org.

MALE VOICES The Boston Saengerfest Men’s Chorus performs “Deck The Hall!,” a holiday program featuring Robbie O’Connell and his Celtic band, at Regis College on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 4 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults; $10 students; children under 6 free. To purchase tickets, go to www.saengerfest.org. The campus is located at 235 Wellesley St., Weston.

Send ideas to nancyswest@gmail.com.