Christmas bird counts flock in on Olympic Peninsula

The annual tradition of tracking down birds as part of a Peninsula-wide census continues Saturday, with organizers seeking volunteers to participate.

The 117th Christmas Bird Count begins locally in Port Townsend and then will spread to Neah Bay, Sequim and Port Angeles by Dec. 31. This will be the first year a count will be conducted in Neah Bay, according to organizers.

Each count takes place in an established 15-mile-wide-diameter circle, and is organized by one coordinator. During the early winter bird census, volunteers within each predesignated area observe bird activity over a 24-hour period.

The Port Townsend count will take place Saturday, with the Neah Bay count following Sunday, a Sequim-Dungeness Valley count Monday and a count in Port Angeles on Dec. 31.

There is a specific methodology to each count, and all participants must make arrangements to participate in advance.

To register, contact the assigned group coordinator for the count desired via email.

For more details regarding the Port Townsend count, send an email to danwags57@gmail.com.

For more details about the Neah Bay count, email cwright7@uw.edu.

Fore more about the Sequim-Dungeness Valley count, email bboek@olympus.net.

For more about the Port Angeles count, email blackieb@olypen.com.

Volunteers can participate in all four counts if they desire, organizers said. Each count is free to attend.

Similar counts will be conducted across the United States and Canada through Jan. 5. For a complete map of sites, visit http://tinyurl.com/PDN-birdcountmap.

Last year, 57 volunteers participated in the Port Townsend count, tallying a total of 117 bird species observed, according to the National Audubon Society.

In Sequim, 135 volunteers participated, tallying a total of 154 bird species observed.

In Port Angeles, 74 volunteers participated, tallying a total of 127 bird species observed.

During each count, volunteers follow specified routes through the designated 15-mile-diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s 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.

Beginning birders will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced bird-watcher.

Participants whose home is within the boundaries of a count circle can stay at home and report the birds that visit their feeders on count day as long as they have made prior arrangements with a count organizer.

The count was first proposed Dec. 25, 1900, by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, according to the Dungeness River Audubon Center.

The data collected by Christmas Bird Count participants throughout the years provide 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.

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Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at cmcdaniel@peninsuladailynews.com.

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