Audubon Christmas Bird Count takes flight
Toting binoculars, some people will don heavy clothing to brave the winter conditions Dec. 29. Others will sit in the comfort of their homes monitoring birdfeeders.
Their goal is the same: Count as many species and individual birds as possible starting at 8 a.m.
Red Wing is again part of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, which began Dec. 14 and continues through Jan. 5 across North America. The research gathered in the 114th count will help shape conservation decisions.
“It’s just a way of people to come together and get some pretty good data on what’s happening across North America,” said Laura Coble, who coordinates the local count.
Six teams of volunteers will gather between 7:15 and 7:45 a.m. at McDonald’s, 2770 North Service Drive, and head to the fields at 8 a.m. Coble said they will regroup at noon to see what sections still need counting. Volunteers meet for supper after 4:30 p.m. at Perkins.
“Some do a half day, some a full day,” she said.
Anyone can participate, but the count is limited to a concentric circle with its center point at Beckmark Lane and County Road 5. The circle includes Frontenac State Park and parts of western Pierce County, but doesn’t extend much farther west than Red Wing’s Bench Street. For that reason, Coble said potential counters must contact her at 507-298-0182 to learn the rules and ensure their data is included.
People can see the full circle at http://moumn.org/
Coble will compile volunteers’ numbers and forward them to Cornell University and the Audubon Society.
Audubon reports that last year’s count shattered records. A total of 2,369 counts and 71,531 people tallied more than 60 million birds of 2,296 species.
Counts took place in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces and more than 100 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. Three new counts started in Cuba, where for the first time the tiniest bird in the world, the bee hummingbird, was included in the results.
The Minnesota Christmas Bird Count dates back to 1905, the sixth count. Minneapolis and Red Wing were the locations of that first state census. Charles Borgen and Nels Phillips coordinated the local count and recorded seven species, the state reports.
The Red Wing Christmas Count resumed in 2007, when Coble volunteered to compile the data.
In 2012, volunteers counted 56,069 birds. Roughly two dozen people count birds in the fields and forests while a half-dozen conduct feeder counts. Since the inception of this census, 138 people have participated with an additional 27 watching feeders.
The job is bit easier today than when the local count went on hiatus in the 1970s, Coble acknowledged.
“It’s much more practical and less expensive to do it online,” she said.
For more information and to find a count near you, go to http://birds.audubon.org