Christmas Bird Counts start this weekend in Southeast;
Audubon Christmas Bird Count is an Alaska Holiday Tradition
December 15, 2010
(SitNews) - Whether it’s by snow machine, by boat, on skis, by car, on foot, or simply in a chair monitoring a bird feeder, for the next few weeks Alaskans across the state will celebrate the season by participating in Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Volunteers will put their binoculars to work in approximately 37 counts in Alaska.
Groups of volunteers select a day between December 14, 2010 and January 5, 2011 to conduct a count. They have 24 hours to record as many birds as possible in a 15-mile diameter circle. Volunteers participate in counts in all 50 states, in all Canadian provinces, several Central and South American countries, and several Pacific and Caribbean islands.
“The Christmas Bird Count volunteers provide invaluable information about the state of Alaska’s birds,” says Nils Warnock, Executive Director of Audubon Alaska. “Long-term records help identify which species are declining, increasing, or shifting geographically.”
In past years, the count has revealed American Robins wintering further north (they are now found on the Anchorage count) as are Black-billed Magpies (which are now found on the Fairbanks count). Last year was the first time Eurasian Collared-Doves appeared during the Christmas count in Alaska, showing up in Juneau and Petersburg.
First organized in the Lower 48 and eastern Canada with just 27 birdwatchers in 1900, this season marks the 111th Christmas Bird Count. In Alaska, volunteers have carried out Christmas Bird Counts since before statehood.
The earliest Alaska counts were in Anchorage and Mountain Village in 1941. Clayton Pollard, a high school senior, conducted the first count in Anchorage, tallying six species. In Mountain Village, Henry Kyllingstad found five species. A decade later, the counts started spreading around the state. In Southeast, the tradition reaches back more than four decades, although the early counts were sporadic. Juneau had the earliest count, in 1967, followed by the first Petersburg/Mitkof Island count in 1968. Barrow held a count in 1975, but recorded zero birds. This year marks the 50th count for Fairbanks.
Last year, more than 1,000 Alaskans joined the Christmas Bird Count, tallying a record 146 species statewide. However, the 120,488 individual birds counted were well below the average for the previous five years. Ketchikan counted 82 species, the highest total in the state. Juneau found 72 species. In some places, birds were scarce, but determined volunteers still ventured out: Nome counted four species, and Prudhoe Bay found one species—the Common Raven.
Count Dates for Southeast Alaska:
Ketchikan: December 18
The Ketchikan count circle is divided up in to smaller areas - some road-based, some water-based, and some trailbased. You can sign up for a coverage area by contacting Andy Piston at 225-9677 (work). A map and bird checklist can also be obtained by contacting Piston. In addition, he will be collecting the $5 participant fee. Call for further information or stop by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commercial Fish Research office in Ketchikan at 2030 Sea Level Drive, Suite 205.
Wrangell: December 18
Craig-Klawock: December 18
Haines/Chilkat: December 18
Juneau: December 18
Petersburg: December 18
Skagway: December 18
Glacier Bay: December 18
Cordova: December 18
Tenakee Springs: December 27
For more Christmas Bird Count dates and the local contacts in Alaska communities, click on the calendar on the Audubon Alaska website at http://ak.audubon.org/events/2121.
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