Birders needed for annual Christmas count

The National Audubon Society is looking for volunteer birders to assist with its annual Christmas Bird Count, an event that turns 111 years old this year.

Data collected during the count, which takes place at locations across the United States between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, is made available to researchers, biologists and others interested in learning more about the status and long-term health of bird populations across North America.

"This is a great opportunity for the public to become involved in conservation as citizen scientists and to become aware of the diversity of species we have right here in Southern Nevada, species that are so important to the ecosystem," said Margie Klein, wildlife education coordinator with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

In Southern Nevada, the bird count is conducted under the auspices of the Red Rock Audubon Society. Birders can choose to participate in one of three scheduled count events. Reservations are required so count organizers can plan for the most effective use of available resources within the designated count area. Each volunteer can expect to pay a $5 fee per bird count.

This fee, according to the Audubon Society, covers the cost of data compilation and the printing of each participant's name in the next Christmas Bird Count issue of "American Birds."

For reservations and information contact the designated count leader.

Henderson Count: Dec. 15. Contact Je Anne Branca at (702) 451-6843 before Thursday.

Ash Meadows Count: Dec. 17. Contact Carl Lundblad at carl.lundblad@gmail.com before Monday.

Corn Creek Count:  Dec. 18, Contact Hermi Hiatt at (702) 361-1171. Plan to meet at 6:30 a.m.

The Christmas Bird Count is conducted within specific geographical areas called "count circles," which are led by a person designated as a count compiler. Beginning birders will have the opportunity of working with at least one experienced birdwatcher.

Anyone who lives within the boundaries of a count circle and has a bird feeder can make arrangements with the count compiler to remain at home and count birds there.

All field participants must be at least 19 years of age and should bring food and water, wear layered clothing and bring extra clothing. 

First held on Christmas Day 1900, the Christmas Bird Count is the brainchild of Frank Chapman, an ornithologist and officer in the Audubon Society.

During the 2009-10 bird count, participants documented nearly 56 million birds at 2,160 count circles. In the three Southern Nevada count locations --Ash Meadows, Corn Creek (Desert Game Range) and Henderson -- volunteers viewed 75, 108 and 81 separate bird species respectively.

More information about the annual bird count can be found online at www.audubon.org/.

"People are often surprised to learn how many different bird species can be found in Southern Nevada. This bird counting effort is a real chance for people to get outside and learn about Nevada's wildlife. There is so much more to this valuable resource than most people realize," Klein said.

Detailed information about birding opportunities in Nevada, as well as species checklists for each of the agency's three administrative regions, can be found the state Department of Wildlife website (www.ndow.org/wild/bird/).

Those checklists can be downloaded as pdf files and printed at home.