Christmas Bird Count Saturday in King Salmon, Dillingham circles

Dec 18, 2015

Contact Susanna Henry (Togiak NWR) or Melissa Cady (Becharof NWR) to get information and sign up to be a part of the nation's longest running citizen science bird project.

KDLG:  The Christmas Bird Count in the Dillingham and King Salmon counting areas is scheduled for this Saturday, from sunrise to sunset.  KDLG’s Dave Bendinger has more:

Audio transcript:

The annual event, administered by the National Audubon Society, brings together tens of thousands of volunteers across North America to gather data on the types and numbers of birds, often in their backyards.  Togiak Refuge Manager Susanna Henry is the Dillingham count’s new coordinator:

“The Christmas Bird Count has been around since 1900. It is the longest running citizen science project, and it’s extended all over the world now. Declines, and also increases in bird species have been noted through these Christmas Bird Counts, some very interesting things have been shown.”

It's best to call the coordinators ahead of time to sign up and let them know where you're going to be and when. Melissa Cady in King Salmon and Susanna Henry in Dillingham.

For a picture of how big the CBC has become here's a few numbers: Last year, there were 72,653 participants in 2462 counting circles, and combined they documented 2106 species.   

The Dillingham count's 23 participants noted 17 total species and 497 total birds counted. But the Southwest Alaska counts between King Salmon, Izembek, and Unalaska turned some heads with the sheer number of brant counted, plus the addition of trumpeter swans, a Northern harrier, and an orange crowned and a Townsend’s warbler to the list. 

“Some of the most common birds of course are chickadees, we’ll have ravens, we’ll likely have large numbers of pine grosbeaks and red breasted nuthatches at people’s feeders," said Henry. "Almost every year we have something odd, like a Townsend’s solitaire and a white throated sparrow has been seen, and that’s always of great interest to folks.”

Go long.

The rules are fairly simple, and anyone can participate. 

You need to be somewhere within the circle area for either King Salmon or Dillingham. Pick a spot (within the counting circle!) in the field to be, or by your feeder, or a combination thereof, and try to spend at least 30 minutes in each spot. Don’t forget to document where you are and what you see (or hear, if you're good.)

“We are interested in knowing the numbers of birds, and what species you saw, and you need to have some proficiency in bird watching. In other words, be able to tell one species from another, like boreal chickadees from black-capped chickadees. And if you don’t feel that you have that proficiency, let us know, and we’ll put you in the company of people who are good birders.”

If you do see something rare, photo evidence is the best way to verify it for the count, or at least a confident, careful description. 

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count web page has plenty more information.

To get signed up or for more local info, contact Susanna Henry at the Togiak Refuge office in Dillingham, or Melissa Cady at the Becharof Refuge Office in King Salmon. 

The old Dillingham CBC counting circle. Note that half of Snake Mountain's peak is included, for the adventurous watcher or avid ptarmigan hunter.

Below is an email from Susanna Henry with the details:

 Greetings Bird Enthusiast,

Please join Togiak National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, December 19th, 2015, for Dillingham’s 22nd annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  Ever since 1993, when the first Christmas Bird Count was held in Dillingham, a few dozen hardy individuals have participated annually, recording anywhere from 150 to 2,500 birds.  Last year (the count was December 20, 2014) 23 people counted 493 birds (17 species) during 48 hours of effort.

The most common species recorded over the years have been boreal and black-capped chickadees, pine grosbeak, common merganser, common raven, black-billed magpie, and redpoll species.  Highlights have included sightings of McKay’s bunting, brambling, northern hawk owl, long-tailed duck, northern goshawk, gyrfalcon, Townsend’s solitaire, and white-throated sparrow. There's always the chance we might find another unusual bird to add to the list.

Sunrise on December 19th will be 10:26 am, sundown at 4:36 pm.

Results from previous counts have been compiled and posted online by the National Audubon Society (along with a lot of other great information about the Christmas Bird Count) at:

Participation in this event is easy: just record the number of birds that you see, while keeping track of the hours and miles traveled by foot, ski, snowmachine, or stay at home and record the activity at your bird feeder.  All counts should be completed within the official count circle, which extends out from the town to Warehouse Mountain and Snake Lake Road (see attached map).  Counts should last a minimum of 30 minutes and only the highest number of birds seen and/or heard at each location should be recorded.  Since the results are no longer published in a hardcopy format, there is no fee to participate.

There will be a count compilation potluck dinner at my house, 3945 Kanakanak Road (3/4 mile past the junction of the Lake Aleknagik/Kanakanak Roads, going toward the hospital, Nushagak Bay side of the road) starting at 6:00 pmon December 19th.  


Please contact me or Refuge Biologist Andy Aderman (by email:, by phone, or by coming by the Togiak NWR office) if you plan to participate and let us know:

Where within the count circle you would like to survey birds

Who will be in your party

How long you expect to be looking for and counting birds 

If you are interested in going early, or staying out late to look/listen for owls

If you will be keeping an eye out for unusual birds during count week, December 16-22

If you plan to come to the potluck dinner

If you are not coming to the potluck dinner, please email me your results, including your start and stop times, location(s) visited, and the total number of birds recorded per species.  I will compile and submit our data to the National Audubon Society, who will be posting the results online at  If you do come to the potluck, please bring your results with you!

Please join us this holiday season as we work together to conserve North America's birds!   

Happy birding,