National Audubon Society annual bird count hits road Saturday

The Christmas Bird Count, a daylong effort throughout Walla Walla County, kicks off at 7:30 a.m.

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Local birding enthusiasts will gather Saturday to participate in an annual nationwide bird count organized for over a century by National Audubon Society.

The Christmas Bird Count, which has been described as part volunteer citizen-science, part spectator sport and part social gathering, is a daylong effort to identify and list all wild birds seen in Walla Walla County. The results will be included with those from across the country to produce the U.S. State of the Birds Report, believed to be the longest running citizen survey in the world.

The count was started in 1900 by a small group of New York bird-lovers who decided to count birds instead of shoot them as was the custom in a traditional "side hunt" on Christmas Day in which teams competed in an afternoon bird hunt to see which bring in the largest number of downed species. The CBC has grown to become an important community event during which thousands of volunteers across America counted and listed over 60 million birds last year.

Recent counts have been important to documenting the decline or redistribution in this area of some species, such as evening grosbeaks, northern pintails and pine siskins, and the need for conservation efforts. These results now make an important contribution to environmental understanding of the health and success of hundreds of bird species.

The Walla Walla count will begin with bird watchers gathering at 7:30 a.m. in the Harper Joy Theatre parking lot at Whitman College. First-time participants will be paired with those of more advanced skills on teams that will be given "zones" within the county to watch for and count all birds seen and heard.

All participants should come prepared for an all-day outdoor event. Dress warmly, and come with binoculars, water and packed lunch. The day will conclude with a soup and dessert gathering for all participants at 5:30 p.m. at the Muse home at 219 Newell St. to review results.

Those interested in participating should contact local CBC coordinators Mike and MerryLynn Denny at 529-0080. For more information, go to www.blumtn.org.

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