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Annual Christmas Bird Count begins this weekend

Posted: December 16, 2011 - 1:00am

Once again this year, Juneau outdoors enthusiasts are encouraged to join the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, taking place from Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 in locations across the country as well as in Canada and some Central and South American countries. In Juneau the count begins Dec. 17.

Those who volunteer to participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count have 24 hours to record as many birds as possible in a 15-mile diameter circle. Last year there were 38 counts held across Alaska. Many counts end with a social gathering to tally lists and crow over the best birds.

Last year 40 volunteers from Juneau participated in the count — the highest number of participants in Southeast.

Those interested in participating this year should contact Mark Schwan at 789-9841 or aukebay@gci.net.

First organized in the Lower 48 and eastern Canada with just 27 birdwatchers in 1900, this season marks the 112th Christmas Bird Count. In Alaska, volunteers have carried out Christmas Bird Counts since before statehood.

“Aside from working off some holiday feasting, the Christmas Bird Count is a great way for volunteers of all ages to participate in one of the longest running citizen-science projects in the world,” said Nils Warnock, executive director of Audubon Alaska, in a press release. “With more than a century of data nationwide and 70 years in Alaska, this is a powerful tool that helps scientists look for changes in Alaska’s bird populations and ranges.”

There are more birds than you might expect in Alaska in the winter. The 1,009 observers who participated last year tallied 152 species, and 134,016 individual birds (although the number of species was near record, the number of birds was below the five-year average). One of the most surprising results was the expansion of Eurasian Collared-Doves. This species appeared for the first time on Mitkof Island in Southeast on the Christmas Count two years ago. Last year, observers found a total of 41 of the birds on six different counts: Juneau, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Mitkof Island, and one bird as far north as Cordova.

In Southeast, 106 species and about 52,141 individuals were tallied on 11 counts. Ketchikan recorded the most species (83 plus 7 count week; also highest for Alaska), and Glacier Bay the most individuals (10,830).

Alaska Christmas Bird Counts welcome volunteers of all skill levels.

For more Christmas Bird Count dates and contacts in Alaska communities, see ak.audubon.org/events/2717 on the Audubon Alaska website, or contact Beth Peluso at (907) 276-7034 or bpeluso@audubon.org.

To see detailed results from last year’s count, visit ak.audubon.org/files/Audubon%20Alaska/documents/AK_CBC_111th_Summary.pdf.

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