Join the Christmas Bird Count

A blue jay perches on a branch on a snowy day. Photo by Kate Perkins

A blue jay perches on a branch on a snowy day. Photo by Kate Perkins

One of the best ways to enjoy the sights and sounds of winter is through birdwatching, and Christmas happens to be a great time get out and see some birds. This is the time of year when the annual Christmas Bird Count is conducted.

This is your chance to birdwatch for a cause and participate in one of the longest-running citizen science projects in history. This year will be the 116th Christmas Bird Count. So what is the Christmas Bird Count?

Essentially, the Christmas Bird Count is an early winter bird census. It’s organized by the Audubon Society, which now has more than a century of data. The data collected from the census has allowed researchers, biologists and wildlife agencies to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

Judd Brink, owner of Minnesota Backyard Birds and professional birding guide, is organizing the Whitefish Area’s Christmas Bird Count. You can join Brink in the bird count by emailing him at jb@mnbackyardbirds.com.

Brink and a crew of birders will be heading out to count birds on Saturday, Jan. 2. They’ll meet at the A-Pine in Jenkins at 7:30 that morning for a hot breakfast before heading out to count birds on their fifth annual count.

Brink’s crew will count birds in a 15 mile radius with its center at the Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area, perhaps one of the most popular birding sites in the area. They’ll cover much of the area surrounding the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway, which also encompasses the Whitefish Chain of lakes.

Last year the group found 27 different species of birds and more than 800 individuals. In the process, they explored some of the wilderness areas surrounding the Whitefish Chain. Together the members of the Christmas Bird Count have seen large birds like owls and eagles, and small birds like chickadees and finches.

If you’re a resident of the Whitefish Area, or if you’re staying somewhere that you can watch a feeder, you can participate in the Christmas Bird Count without leaving the comfort of the indoors by watching and counting birds at a feeder. If you plan to do this, though, be sure to coordinate with Brink so your results can be included in the count.

Participating in the Christmas Bird Count is a great way to enjoy a day of birdwatching, and it’s also a way to help bird populations. The data collected from the count provides long-term perspective for conservationists, who are able to use the data to inform strategies for protecting habitat. That data is also used to identify issues in bird population or environmental issues that impact humans as well.

To learn more about the Christmas Bird Count, visit http://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count.

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