By Becky Herman
Special to The SUN
On Dec. 14, the Weminuche Audubon Society welcomes all local residents, visitors and bird enthusiasts to join the longest-running citizen science survey in the world, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC).
Our Pagosa 15-mile diameter circle (the count circle) is divided into eight zones. On count day, each zone is systematically walked, driven and cross-country skied by a team of birders who identify the birds they see within their zone and tally the species names and the number of birds within each species.
At the end of the day, the birders gather at the Methodist Church on Lewis Street for a chili supper and a lively exchange of reports about the highlights and disappointments for each team. Totals are then tallied for each species and each zone.
This year will see even more interest than usual in the number of species and the total number of birds seen because the number of birds counted last year (3,466 in 2018) showed a considerable drop from the previous year’s count (5,314 in 2017).
Lots of things factor into changes to these numbers, including temperature, precipitation, the expansion of agriculture, logging, invasive species, hunting and climate change. An online account of the recently published report from the National Audubon Society titled “Climate Change and Birds” states, “Of the 588 North American bird species Audubon studied, more than half are likely to be in trouble. Our models indicate that 314 species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080.”
An overview of the report, as well as a link to the entire document, can be found at https://climate2014.audubon.org/article/audubon-report-glance. An especially useful section of this website offers answers to the question: What can I do about this?
The CBC is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society, with over 100 years of community science involvement. Each year, thousands of volunteers across the Western Hemisphere come together to participate in this early-winter bird census. The CBC provides critical data on bird population trends.
Individuals may submit counts from their backyard feeders (you will need to make arrangements with the count organizer), log the species spotted during Count Week or join a team to traverse one of eight zones within Pagosa Springs’ count circle. To find out more, contact Audubon Rockies’ Keith Bruno at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will be offering three Birding 101 classes before the CBC. Beginning birders as well as experienced folks are welcomed.
The classes are free to the public and will be held at the Methodist Church on Lewis Street on Nov. 20, Dec. 4 and Dec. 12; they start at 6 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. Each class will feature different types of birds, so try to attend all three. This is your chance to sign up for a birding team and meet others who will be participating.
The wrap-up party is held on Count Day, Dec. 14, in the Methodist Church’s meeting room from 4 to 7 p.m.
We hope you’ll join in on the fun as you learn about birds and contribute to this critical effort to keep birds and the planet healthy.
For information about the mission and goals of the Weminuche Audubon Society, check out the website, www.weminucheaudubon.org, or call Jean Zirnhelt at 731-2985.
By Becky Herman