Christmas bird count starts this week

Annual survey helps track population trends, potential threats

 red-tailed hawk

A red-tailed hawk perches on a snag in the Williams Fork Range in Summit County, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Experienced birders and novices alike are invited to join in one of the longest-running citizen science surveys in the world — the 114th annual Christmas Bird Count, set this year for Dec. 14 through Jan. 5, 2014.

This year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is hosting an event at the State Forest State Park, near Gould. The 71,000-acre park includes alpine lakes, forests and peaks along the west side of the Medicine Bow Mountains and into the north end of the Never Summer Range.

Participants need to be at the Moose Visitor Center, Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 a.m. and be ready for an exciting day of counting birds. Novice birders are reminded to bring binoculars, bird guides and warm clothing.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s for good cause,” said State Forest State Park Manager Kent Minor. “There is beautiful scenery, crisp, clean air and great people getting together to share their common interests in conservation, the outdoors and birds.”

Since the Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago, it has relied on the dedication and commitment of volunteers. Several thousand birders throughout the Americas join together between Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 to take part in what has become a tradition for many families and students.

“Those that participate in the Christmas Bird Count contribute significantly to the conservation of a variety of bird species,” said Minor. “The data is very useful in keeping track of the overall population trends and helps with management and conservation goals.”

Everyone can enjoy a light breakfast before heading up to the North Park CBC circle. After a busy morning of counting birds, participants can gather for the provided warm lunch.

State Forest State Park is located at 56750 Highway 14, 1 mile east of Gould. For more information, call the park at 970-723-8366.

Around the country, tens of thousands of volunteers will join in the count, braving snow, wind, and rain and making an enormous contribution to conservation.

The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the annual breeding bird survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

The Christmas bird count can help identify local trends in bird populations, which can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from improper use of pesticides.

In the 1980′s CBC data documented the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck, after which conservation measures were put into effect to reduce hunting pressure on this species.

In 2009, the data were instrumental in Audubon’s Birds & Climate Change analysis, which documented range shifts of bird species over time. Also in 2009 CBC data were instrumental in the collaborative report  by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative,  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – State of the Birds 2009 . The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has included Audubon’s climate change work from CBC data as one of 26 indicators of climate change in their 2012 report.

In 2007, the data were instrumental in the development of two Audubon State of the Birds Reports – Common Birds in Decline, which revealed that some of America’s most beloved and familiar birds have taken a nosedive over the past forty years, and WatchList 2007, which identified 178 rarer species in the continental U.S. and 39 in Hawaii that are imperiled. These three reports helped scientists and policy-makers to both identify threats to birds and habitat, and promote broad awareness of the need to address them.

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