Annual Christmas Bird count needs volunteers Dec. 30

Join the growing number of bird enthusiasts across the world by participating in the local Hood River Christmas Bird Count. The annual count will conduct a census of the birds found during one 24-hour period Dec. 30 in a designated circle 15 miles in diameter, addressing about 177 square miles.

The Hood River CBC began in 1988 and is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Many residents volunteer for the count, but more are still needed.

Wildlife biological services technician CJ Flick is the organizer, facilitator and compiler for the Hood River CBC for the annual Audubon-sponsored event.

According to Flick, more than 55,000 volunteers across North America, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, Pacific islands and Antarctica count and record birds seen in just over 2,000 Christmas Bird Count circles.

Anyone who volunteers for the local event will get to decide whether they want to participate as a “field” or as a “feeder-watcher” volunteer, or both.

According to Flick, the details of the count are as follows: “We start our day by meeting for breakfast at the (Best Western) Hood River Inn on Dec. 30 at 6:30 a.m. We get acquainted and are introduced to our group leaders. Groups decide where each field group is surveying so there is little to no overlap, and I introduce new volunteers to the Christmas Bird Count itself. If you can’t make it for breakfast, please show up by 7:15 a.m. as we head out by 7:30 a.m.”

As a “field” participant with a designated group leader, volunteers can go out in the field for one hour, two hours, a half-day or a full day.

“I recommend a couple of hours for first-time field volunteers so that you get a feel for the program and minimize burn-out. You’ll have a list of possible birds for compiling the numbers we see in our area,” said Flick.

“For those going into the field, we dress for all winter weather conditions. Clothing layers are a must,” said Flick, who suggests the following supplies: long underwear, wool or polypro shirts, sweaters or such, hat, two pair of gloves, and outer rain gear; binoculars (6x30, 7x35 or 8x40 best); water; snacks and lunch; waterproof and warm winter boots.

Group leaders have identification field guides and iPod apps, but volunteers may bring favorite bird field guides if they wish.

As a “feeder-watcher” participant on Dec. 30, volunteers count the birds on their property or at their feeder(s) from the comfort of their warm home. Flick will provide the feeder-watch form (which includes a list of common birds) and instructions and will make a special home visit if needed before count day to help volunteers practice identifying birds.

At the end of the day on Dec. 30, all volunteers converge for the Hood River Christmas Bird Count “countdown” and dinner (buy your own) at the Charburger restaurant in Hood River from 4:30-5:45 p.m.

There, counters swap CBC stories of the day, tally the total number of bird species seen and share any sightings of rare or special birds of the day. Participants particularly love the countdown get-together because it is very animated and relaxed, and provides a fun closure, according to Flick.

Local data will be entered into an Internet program called “Audubon Christmas Bird Count.” The data is public and is accessible online. Hood River CBC historic data is also available.

For more information contact Flick at 509-493-1195 or stewart@gorge.net.

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