As the year comes to a close, it also brings with it the Christmas Bird Count, an annual event that helps scientists across the United States monitor the health of bird species and track where they travel and in what quantities. The National Audubon Society started the annual count more than 100 years ago as a way to encourage bird conservation, and today the data from these counts has proved valuable to scientists across the world.
“There are federal and national agencies that depend on this because there is so much data,” said Beth Peluso, communications director for Audubon Alaska. “When you have a long-term set of data it gives you a lot better idea of what is going on. Each year, the new Christmas Bird Count gives us another snapshot.”
For instance, Peluso said, the everyday robin, a summertime local in Alaska, has been slowly extending its stay into winter.
“They didn’t used to overwinter here as much, but starting in the mid-’90s, we started seeing more and more,” Peluso said. “It may be milder climates, climate change, it may be the presence of more mountain ash, and robins like their berries. We don’t know for sure, but the data helps us track that kind of information.”
This year’s bird counts will be held throughout southcentral Alaska and beyond – Peluso said it is somewhat of a yearly challenge among the birding hotspots of Anchorage, Kodiak and Fairbanks to see who collects the most data. The friendly competition is good for birds – and scientists – everywhere. No matter where you might be birding, be sure to register at the national website so your citizen science is recorded, www.audubon.org.
Dec. 10: CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT FOR KIDS
9 a.m.-1 p.m. at The Alaska Zoo, Anchorage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Zoo and Audubon Alaska join together for this kid-friendly event. Budding birders will learn what it means to become a citizen scientist, and will discover how local birds tough it out during Alaska’s harsh winters. Participants must register in advance through Stephanie Hartman, 341-6463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. $3.
Dec. 17: ANCHORAGE AUDUBON BIRD COUNT
As one of the largest birding groups in the state – organizer Louann Feldmann says their count attracts some 180 participants a year – this event is split into five areas, with five separate leaders. The best way to find out more about the area in which you want to go birding is to visit the club’s website, www.anchorageaudubon.org, to figure out which leader to meet and when to meet. Feeder watchers should also contact area leaders. A potluck and tally party will be held at 5:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2610 E. Northern Lights Blvd. For general inquiries, contact Feldmann, 952-2408.
Dec. 17: KACHEMAK BAY BIRDERS BIRD COUNT
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Islands & Oceans Visitor Center, Homer. Meet at the center where birders will be split into seven to a dozen groups to bird specific areas. Feeder watchers are also welcome. There will be a potluck afterward back at the center. Bring a dish to share. Contact Dave Erikson, 441-7931, for more details.
Dec. 17: SOLDOTNA BIRD COUNT
9 a.m., Kaladi Brothers Coffee Co., Kobuk Street, Soldotna. Meet between 9-10 a.m. at Kaladi’s to split into groups and search for birds in the area. Feeder watchers welcome. A potluck and tally party will be held at 5 p.m. at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. For details, contact Jack Sinclair, 398-7497.
DEC. 17: Seward Audubon Bird Count
9 a.m. Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery, 320 Third Ave., Seward. Meet to assign Field Counter teams, then meet up again from 4-5 p.m. for the tally. Interested birders should contact compiler ahead of time, and be prepared to be outside most of the day no matter the weather. For more details, contact Carol Griswold, Seward CBC Compiler, email@example.com.
Dec. 18: MAT-SU BIRDERS BIRD COUNT
5 a.m.-5 p.m. There will be no meeting location prior to birding – just bird within the Matanuska Valley 15-mile diameter Count Circle, whose center point is the intersection of the Palmer-Wasilla Highway and Old Trunk Road-Stringfield Road. There will be a potluck at a private home following the count. Attend the club’s Dec. 14, 7 p.m., meeting at the Palmer Library for more details on the count. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan. 1, 2017: CHUGIAK/EAGLE RIVER BIRD COUNT
Eagle River Nature Center, Eagle River. Join the Nature Center to help gather data from Eagle River and Chugiak for Audubon Society’s annual Winter Bird Count. Choose to cover a predetermined area or even do it at your own bird feeder. Contact coordinator Liza Sanden, email@example.com.