Winter bird counts provide valuable data

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The CBC is the oldest wildlife census in the world. Bird counts take place from December 14, 2021 to January 5, 2022 at sites in the United States, Canada, and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Information gathered at specific sites over a 24-hour period is summarized by scientists to better understand bird populations and patterns.

“This is the 27th consecutive year that bird counts have taken place at Itasca State Park, from 1995 to present,” said Connie Cox, naturalist for Itasca State Park. “It will also mark a total of 38 years of counts in the park. The first counts began in 1972 and lasted for 11 years (1972-82). Then there was a gap before Bemidji’s Doug Johnson took over. I have helped coordinate with him since 1996.

Volunteers will explore various areas of the park in search of winter birds and can stay a few hours or spend the whole day.

“Taking part in the bird count introduces you to nature,” Cox said. “Over the years, I have had the chance to observe the fluctuation of winter migrants. It’s when you stumble upon the birds as they engage in winter survival which is exciting, like snowshoeing an area to find birds and having a ruffed grouse under the snow right in front of your feet. Or spot a bald eagle perched on top of a spruce tree. Uncover a brown creeper hidden behind the loose bark of a pine tree, or chase a flock of White-winged Crossbills from the side of the road as they feed on gravel. It is these sudden experiences with nature that are rewarding.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers will not be gathering until this year’s survey.

“We want everyone to feel safe, so we’re going to be semi-contactless,” Cox said. “Any new counter will need to be an experienced bird watcher who is able to go out on their own, as we need to reduce contact such as traveling in groups in closed vehicles. Ridesharing can occur within familiar or existing social pod groups. “

Anyone planning to participate in the bird count should register before the count date by email or phone. There will be a place outside the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center starting at 7:30 am for those who need papers and cards to register birds.

“We won’t be gathering as a group indoors for a group lunch and briefing this year,” Cox said.

“However, the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

“Data collected from a long-term wildlife census can help assess the health of bird populations,” Cox said. “Over time, you can look at trends in populations of bird species. Our data, compiled with data from across the country through the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, provides insight into what is happening with specific bird species.

“People can follow the birds on the Audubon site: www.audubon.org/conservation/where-have-all-birds-gone. You can track by geography (such as trends by state, trends by country) or investigate general trends over time periods or by specific states. “

This data, combined with other surveys such as Breeding Bird Survey or Project Feeder Watch, can provide a picture of how bird populations have changed over time and space. On a larger scale, combined data collected over a long period of time can help guide conservation actions.

The information gathered is used to track migration patterns and changes in winter bird species across North America. To learn more about this national bird survey, visit birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count

Sign up for the Itasca Bird Count by calling 218-699-7251 or emailing constance.cox@state.mn.us.

To participate in the Bemidji bird count on December 18, contact Jaime Thibodeaux at 218-308-6853 or jaimethib@hotmail.com, or Becca Engdahl at 651-271-4038 or bemidjibecca@gmail.com.

Visit the Mississippi Headwaters Audubon Society Facebook page or spearheadmhas.org for more information.

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