By Dr. Madeline Kalbach
For the Observer
WILLAPA BAY — Counting birds can be fun and it helps to improve our knowledge of the environment. Several times during the year counts are made to determine the distribution of the species of birds in North America and elsewhere in the world. One of those times occurs in December. It is called the Annual Christmas Bird Count, and in essence, it is an early-winter bird census, where thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the western hemisphere go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds.
The Annual Christmas Bird Count in our area will take place on Saturday, Dec. 16. The purpose of the count is to document the number of bird species and the individual numbers of each that are present on the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and the Peninsula. More specifically, the point of the count is to assess population trends and the distribution of the birds in these areas. The count takes place in an established 15-mile-wide diameter circle and is organized by a count compiler.
Count volunteers follow specific routes through the 15-mile diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day long. There are usually groups of volunteers that go out together.
If your home is within the boundaries of our Christmas bird count circle and you have bird feeders, you can report the birds that visit your feeder on count day by letting the local compiler know beforehand that you would like to submit your bird feeder count.
Since the Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago, it has relied on the dedication and commitment of volunteers. If you are interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count this year, contact the Willapa Hills Audubon Society through their website at willapahillsaudubon.org. You can add to a century of citizen science data by signing up.
Call to offer help
LEADBETTER — Audubon Leadbetter Christmas Bird Count participants, usually in one vehicle, would like to have access for about 10 minutes to properties north of 188th street along the bay again this year to count the shorebirds. If you are willing to help, call Suzy Whittey at 360-642-2239 to get more information and discuss this.
This year Willapa Bay was listed as an “International Site of Importance” for the birds on our planet. It would be wonderful if we could get a great count again this year.
People all around the world will be counting birds for the Audubon Society between mid-December and early January. This is 118-year-old tradition helps ornithologists, biologists and wildlife managers keep tabs on the health of our bird species.
This is a Christmas gift you can give to nature to our birds and yourself. Knowing that you helped give the scientist and wildlife manages important information to protect the birds on the bay that are enjoyed by so many.