On Christmas Day in 1900, a band of bird-lovers decided to do something different from the traditional holiday "side hunt," in which teams competed to see who could shoot down the most birds. Led by ornithologist Frank Chapman, 27 conservationists in 25 localities decided to count their feathered friends instead of hunt them. This year marks the 101st anniversary of that first Christmas Bird Count (CBC), and now more than 55,000 volunteers in all 50 states, every Canadian province, and parts of Central and South America join together in 24 hours of counting every single individual and bird species they see. With computers to link all this great information (check out Bird Studies Canada's homepage: www.bsc-eoc.org), the bird counts collectively offer significant scientific data about winter distributions of bird species as well as the overall ecological health of the American continents. In the Triangle, CBCs are taking place in December in Chapel Hill (Dec. 24, Will Cook, 967-5447), Durham (Dec. 17, Mike Schultz, 490-6761), Falls Lake (Dec. 30, Brian Bockhahn, 676-1027), Jordan Lake (Dec. 31, Carol Williamson, 383-2364) and Wake County, (Dec. 16, John Gerwin, 715-2600). Inexperienced birders are welcome.