Dillingham's 23rd annual and King Salmon's 31st annual Christmas Bird Counts are Saturday, December 17. Contact Kara Hilwig (Togiak NWR) or Melissa Cady (Becharof NWR) to participate.
This Saturday, December 17, bird watchers in Dillingham, Naknek, and King Salmon will turn out for the annual National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.
It’s a count that happens across North America. Each participating community picks a day between December 14 and January 5, and volunteers organize to count birds in the area. Then they report those numbers to the National Audubon Society.
Melissa Cady is a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Peninsula/Becharof National Wildlife Refuge.
“The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running citizen science project in the country,” Cady says. “People go out and count every bird that they can find. And one day is selected, and they count every bird that they can during that day. They also record some information about their efforts—so how long they were counting or how far they drove. And these data are compiled and used by biologists to look at wintertime population trends of birds across the continent.”
In the past, Naknek and King Salmon’s Christmas counts have recorded 11 to 24 different species and between 500 and nearly 4000 individual birds. Ravens, Black-capped Chickadees, Black-billed Magpies, and Pine Grosbeaks are among the most common birds recorded. Cady says that their count normally draws 5 to 10 committed bird watchers who volunteer their time.
Rod Cyr is one of these. He has been participating in the Naknek/ King Salmon Christmas Bird Count for 20 years.
“I think it’s good for people to really get out and enjoy seeing the birds, for one, or just enjoy being in that environment,” says Cyr. “I think that’s pretty much why I do it and always did it, but it’s a love for birds too.”
Volunteers in Naknek and King Salmon will meet at the King Salmon visitor center at 9:30 on Saturday. The coordinator will assign volunteers an area for bird counting to guard against double counting. From there, bird watchers can drive, ski, walk, snow machine, or boat to their assigned area to get counting.
Dillingham’s count is this weekend as well. Kara Hilwig is the pilot biologist at the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.
She says, “The basics are you just coordinate with me, and we’ll assign you a location. And you simply record your start time, how many birds you saw, and what distance you may have traveled in your vehicle or by foot. And just get a good sense of what birds are out there and how many of them are there.”
In Dillingham, rather than meeting up Saturday morning, volunteers can call Hilwig at the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge before Saturday to coordinate a count location.
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