35th Annual Christmas Bird Count

Bristlecone Audubon chapter    Lois K. ports

This year marks the 123rd Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the 35th year for the Elko/Spring Creek Bird Count. The local count will be held on Saturday, December 17, 2022. If you are interested in participating you will need to contact Lois Ports, the count circle compiler, at bristleconeaudubon@gmail.com by December 9, 2022.

From December 14 through January 5 each year tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the effort. 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 Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and place over the past hundred years. The state of Nevada averages 18 Christmas Bird Counts with the majority being held in the western and southern parts of the state. 

There is a specific methodology to the CBC, and all participants need to sign up in advance with Lois Ports (bristleconeaububon@gmail.com), but anyone can participate. Each count takes place on a specific day in an established 15-mile diameter circle and is organized by the count compiler. This year our local count will be held on Saturday, December 17th. Count volunteers will bird within their assigned route. These participants count every bird they see on their route (and yes, we count each House Sparrow and Starling!).  The Elko Count Circle includes portions of Elko, Spring Creek, and South Fork and is divided into at least 20 routes. Participants are assigned one or more of the routes and they can count any time during that day. Each team of participants typically spends 4 to 6 hours birding their area. Some routes are mainly done on foot such as those in residential areas while others require a vehicle in the more remote areas. Part of the data collected includes mileage from each participant. In a typical year a total of 375 miles are driven with around 10 miles walked. Volunteers are provided with a tally sheet for recording their sightings which helps streamline inputting the data. Data from all counts held throughout the Americas can be found at:  https://netapp.audubon.org/cbcobservation/

Bristlecone Audubon is offering a presentation on the winter birds of the area at their meeting on Tuesday, December 6 at 7:00 pm in the conference room at the Nevada Department of Wildlife headquarters, 60 Youth Center Road, Elko. This program will discuss how to tell apart some of the commonly confused birds seen this time of year. It will also be a general introduction to bird watching for people interested in learning about birds. Bristlecone Audubon meetings are always open to the public.

The more people we have participating in the bird count the more efficiently we can conduct the bird count. Hopefully each team will have two or more participants which gives the group more spotters and more birds can be found. Last year we had 24 participants in the field and several people who counted birds at bird feeders in their yard. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is offering a program for beginning birders which will pair them with a staff member that will accompany them on a route of the CBC. The goal is to help these individuals learn birding basics while participating in the count. If you are interested in this program, you must register at: https://www.register-ed.com/programs/nevada/212-wildlife-education. Children aged 7 and above are welcome if they are accompanied by an adult. 

Last year we had 3 birds new to our count: Lapland Longspur, Anna’s Hummingbird, and Say’s Phoebe. A total of 143 species have been seen over the past thirty-four years on the local CBC. There are 12 species that have been seen every one of those years: Canada Goose, Mallard, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Rock Dove (feral pigeon), Northern Flicker, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, European Starling, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch, and House Sparrow. Last year we had our highest count with a total of 76 species and 12,591 individual birds. There were over a thousand each of House Sparrows, European Starlings, and Canada Geese, with an amazing 3,102 Ruddy Ducks! Birds with over 100 individuals counted last year included Eurasian Collared Dove (507), Common Raven (505), American Robin (363), White-Crowned Sparrow (231), Dark-eyed Junco (212), House Finch (177), American Coot (174), and Black-billed Magpie (146). During an average year for the Elko/Spring Creek CBC we see over 5,000 birds with at least 62 species recorded. The past few years we have been increasing our participant numbers and we have been getting much higher count results since a more thorough count can be conducted. 

If you do have bird feeders in your yard, please make sure they are full in the days preceding and including the count. This helps draw birds into our circle. People participating in the CBC are instructed to not go onto people’s property or yards. Instead, they will use binoculars to view birds from the road or sidewalk.  If you live within the count circle and regularly watch birds at your bird feeders, you can email bristleconeaudubon@gmail.com for directions on how you can also participate.  You can find out more about the CBC at: https://www.audubon.org/conservation/join-christmas-bird-count.

To learn more about our area’s birds, plants and other wildlife follow us on Facebook at Bristlecone Audubon. Contact us at bristleconeaudubon@gmail.com if you would like to receive our digital newsletter.