Christmas is once again coming early for local birdwatchers.
The annual bird counts are set for Saturday, Dec. 16 in Port Townsend; Neah Bay on Sunday, Dec. 17; the Sequim-Dungeness area Monday, Dec. 18; and Port Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 30.
Each Christmas bird count covers a 15-mile diameter count circle, so event organizers are looking for plenty of participants to cover as much of the areas as possible, even if they simply count their feeders or stroll around their neighborhood for an hour or two.
For instance, the center of the Sequim bird count circle is near the intersection of Brown and Port Williams roads and includes Dungeness Spit, Dungeness and Sequim bays, Protection Island, Diamond Point and some of the Olympic foothills south of Sequim.
Bird count organizers also will have field parties assigned to specific areas of each count circle.
The count is not just a species tally — all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.
The data collected by Christmas Bird Count participants throughout the years have provided a wealth of information to researchers interested in the long-term study of early winter bird populations across North America.
To date, more than 200 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analysis done with Christmas Bird Count data, according to the National Audubon Society.
The Christmas Bird Count is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society, with more than 100 years of citizen science involvement.
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 during a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds.
Audubon’s 118th Christmas Bird Count will be conducted this season, with all counts held between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
A pre-Christmas Bird Count warm-up field trip is Saturday, Dec. 9. It will start at the Dungeness River Audubon Center at 9 a.m. Participants will view land birds at Railroad Bridge Park, then travel to Dungeness Bay to observe water birds.
For more about the Sequim area count — and to register — contact Bob Boekelheide at 360-808-0196 or [email protected] In Port Townsend, contact Dan Waggoner at [email protected] or 360-301-1788. In Neah Bay, contact Charlie Wright at [email protected] In Port Angeles, contact Barb Blackie at [email protected]