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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 120th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Within count circles registered in advance with the National 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.

On Saturday, Jan. 4, 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 23rd count in the Coquille Valley. Last year, 42 observers in the field and 12 participants monitoring their bird feeders and yards counted 36,534 birds, identifying 150 different species. For the second year in a row, this was the highest species count for all circles in Oregon.

Those interested in joining a count team on Jan. 4 can e-mail harv@greaterbandon.org or call 541-297-2342. The count teams can anticipate being out in the field from dawn to dusk.

For those who would like to help but are unable to devote the entire day or are unable to get out in the field, there are opportunities to count birds in their yards or neighborhoods or at their feeders on count day at their leisure. Feeder counters are especially short in number. Those interested in helping in this way can again contact the above number or email.

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