Annual Christmas bird count

Birders use scopes to identify local bird species on the Bandon marsh during last year’s Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Contributed photo

BANDON — Back in 1900 what became known as Audubon Magazine suggested a new yuletide recreation: Who could count the most birds in their native habitat.

This winter, an estimated 60,000 people in the United States, Canada and elsewhere in the western hemisphere will take part in the 118th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Within count circles registered in advance with the Audubon Society, teams of birders will take to the field for fun, for tradition and for science.

Today, CBC results, stretching back to the count’s inception, have been computerized and this massive database can be analyzed to track shifts in distribution, seasonal irruptions of nomadic birds and large scale population changes. When combined with breeding bird surveys, the effort provides an early warning system when a bird species begins to decline.

The Coquille Valley Christmas Bird Count is the local contributor to the Audubon Society’s annual exercise. The Coquille Valley count circle stretches from Bandon on the coast all the way east to Coquille and  Norway bottoms and from Whiskey Run Beach on the north to Dew Valley Road on the south. Cape Arago Audubon president Harv Schubothe leads the local count.

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On Saturday, Dec. 30, birders from Bandon to Coquille will try to match the circle’s 159 different bird species seen in 1995, which remains the third highest count in state history. This year’s count will be the 21st count in the Coquille Valley. Last year, 33 observers in the field and 12 participants monitoring their bird feeders and yards counted 45,284 birds, identifying 146 different species.

Those interested in joining a count team can anticipate being out in the field from dawn to dusk. For those who would like to help, but are unable to devote the day or are unable to get out in the field, there are opportunities to count birds at their leisure in their yards, their neighborhood or at their feeders on count day. Feeder counters are especially short in number. Those interested in helping can call 541-297-2342 or email nharv@greaterbandon.org.

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