It’s a bird! The winter birding season is underway with the Christmas bird count this weekend

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Roaring Fork Audubon member Mark Fuller takes a closer look at a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree in Carbondale Nature Park.
Chelsea Auto / Independent Post

An annual event this weekend turns a standard weekend stroll or walk into a contribution to the field of ornithology in one of the country’s oldest citizen science projects.

The Roaring Fork Audubon Society is participating in the 122nd National Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, bringing together local populations of birds and different species. The local branch of the National Audubon Society is organizing its event for Saturday, sending bird watchers to the roads and trails to take stock of local leaflets.

“The idea is to send people wherever they go and into that counting area to do a tally of everything they see, cash and numbers,” said Mark Fuller, Roaring Fork Audubon member, responsible for the compilation.



Ticket offices will meet at the Third Street Center in Carbondale before being spread over eight areas to search for the ever-present feathered herd.

The teams will be divided into pilots, observers and loggers, opening the door to bird watchers of all skills and experience.



Roaring Fork Audubon member Mark Fuller watches birds high up in a tree in Carbondale Nature Park on a cold morning.
Chelsea Auto / Independent Post

“We’ll have a few experienced bird watchers in the group, and we’ll pair them up with anyone who isn’t as experienced,” Fuller said. “It’s a good way to get started with bird watching. “

The Christmas bird count began in 1900, according to the National Audubon Society website, working to use citizen science to create records of bird population trends locally and nationally.

Fuller said Christmas was originally chosen because it was an easy date to remember, but it also provides a “benchmark” population as migratory birds have left the area and winter birds have left the area. have not yet settled.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, records for attendance date back to 1977 and bird numbers to 1992. Numbers have fluctuated from a low of 53 species identified in 2016 to a high of 80 in 1996.

Mark Fuller goes in search of birds at Carbondale Nature Park.
Chelsea Auto / Independent Post

After steadily hitting at least 70 until 2006, the number has not reached that plateau since. There was only one enumeration under the age of 60 before 2010 and four since, including three consecutive from 2016 to 2018.

Aspen-based naturalist guide Rebecca Weiss – who occasionally contracts with the Center for Environmental Studies in Aspen – said the difference in numbers is felt on an anecdotal level by birders in the area.

“We all kind of put our heads together and commented that the 2021 spring and fall migration seasons looked pretty weak,” Weiss said. “We kind of felt a noticeably smaller number of birds.”

Weiss coordinates the Aspen region count, which takes place on Sunday. The countdowns have specific days, but three “intermediate days” on either side of the countdown day can be used for those not participating in the actual event.

The counters will meet at 7 a.m. before heading to the field, and they will meet again at Village Smithy at 12:30 p.m. in Carbondale to exchange notes and hand in the counts. Roaring Fork Audubon Society information says ready to be in the field until 3 p.m.

Roaring Fork Audubon member Mark Fuller walks through Carbondale Nature Park in search of birds on a cold morning.
Chelsea Auto / Independent Post

According to the National Weather Service, Saturday is shaping up to be a sunny day with a high of 33 degrees.

Fuller recommends bringing weather-appropriate clothing and binoculars, if possible. The Audubon Company hopes that all participants are fully immunized and boosted, and advised participants to be prepared to wear masks indoors.

Those interested in participating can contact Fuller at fulcon@comcast.net.

Weiss can be contacted for the upvalley tally at austinrebeccaweiss@gmail.com.

How bird in winter

The birding season does not fly south for the winter.

“(Winter bird watching) is totally a thing,” Fuller said. “It’s just less consistent, because the behavior of birds reflects their ability to move around in search of food.”

Fuller said that if you can brave the elements, things like leafless trees and fewer water sources can rationalize birding.

He said bald eagles tend to flock to the area in the winter, as resident birds become less territorial.

Fuller said having the right gear and the right clothes for the weather is essential. He highlighted the Fryingpan Valley and the River Valley Ranch development, which attract birds due to its crabapple-lined streets.

The Center for Environmental Studies in Aspen offers winter birding tours, which Weiss often guides. More information is available at AspenNature.org.

Journalist Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.

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