Local citizen scientists will participate in annual bird count; volunteers wanted

Local birders will participate in the 119th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC), and the 34th count in the Moab area. The Moab Bird Club coordinates counts. Volunteer citizen scientists will be out in full force, ranging through diverse habitats as they tally birds for this vital endeavor. The Moab count circle includes most of the Moab Valley, portions of Castle Valley, Spanish Valley and stretches of the Colorado River.

The numbers collected will be added to a database, which enables scientists to have a better understanding of early winter bird populations and changes that might occur. Birders are divided into teams, and each team not only notes each species observed, but a designated recorder also tallies the number of each species.

The Christmas Bird Count is one of only two bird surveys that cover the entire U.S. and its territories, as well as southern Canada.

The other is the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), which occurs in early summer. Recently, the data from these two surveys has been combined to provide a greater picture of bird populations. The CBC has grown to include counters from above the Arctic Circle to the waters of Drake Passage, off Tierra del Fuego. Data collected is helping to provide an understanding of the status of bird populations in Latin America, the Caribbean and U.S. territories.

Volunteers in Antarctica have also contributed valuable data. Founded in 1899, the CBC is the longest running citizen science program in the world. The Audubon Society hopes to engage citizens in collecting this important information, encourage them to take action of behalf of wildlife and its habitat, as well as foster a renewed effort on behalf of conservation. Data collected is becoming more relevant as scientists determine what impacts climate change has on bird populations.

Last year, 55 participants counted 75 species in the Moab count circle, which is blessed with a good variety of raptors, as well as over-wintering songbirds, ducks and geese. Rare birds pop up occasionally, delighting the lucky observers.

Last year’s count found a Williamson’s sapsucker, a prairie falcon and evening grosbeaks, with a great horned owl turning up for count week. Participants don’t need to be experts, novices are placed with seasoned birders and all are welcome.

To participate, contact Marcy Hafner at 435-259-6197 [email protected] A post-count potluck brunch will be held for participants at The Nature Conservancy office at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16. Notes will be compared and a preliminary review of count numbers will be presented.

To find out about Moab Bird Club meetings and activities, contact Nick or Marian Eason at 435-259-6447.