Groups of volunteers select a day between December 14, 2011 and January 5, 2012 to conduct a count. They have 24 hours to record as many birds as possible in a 15-mile diameter circle. Volunteers participate in counts in all 50 states, in all Canadian provinces, several Central and South American countries, and several Pacific and Caribbean islands. Last year there were 38 counts held across Alaska. Many counts end with a social gathering to tally lists and crow over the best birds.
This year Tok and Prudhoe Bay lead the way, doing their counts on December 14, the first day of the Christmas Bird Count window. The majority of Alaska’s counts fall on December 17. See the Christmas Bird Count Calendar on the Audubon Alaska website for details.
First organized in the Lower 48 and eastern Canada with just 27 birdwatchers in 1900, this season marks the 112th Christmas Bird Count. In Alaska, volunteers have carried out Christmas Bird Counts since before statehood. This year marks the 25th count for Tok.
“Aside from working off some holiday feasting, the Christmas Bird Count is a great way for volunteers of all ages to participate in one of the longest running citizen-science projects in the world,” said Nils Warnock, Executive Director of Audubon Alaska. “With more than a century of data nationwide and 70 years in Alaska, this is a powerful tool that helps scientists look for changes in Alaska’s bird populations and ranges.”
There are more birds than you might expect in Alaska in the winter. The 1,009 observers who participated last year tallied 152 species, and 134,016 individual birds (although the number of species was near record, the number of birds was below the five-year average). One of the most surprising results was the expansion of Eurasian Collared-Doves. This species appeared for the first time on Mitkof Island in Southeast on the Christmas Count two years ago. Last year, observers found a total of 41 of the birds on six different counts, including one bird as far north as Cordova.
Alaska Christmas Bird Counts welcome volunteers of all skill levels. For more Christmas Bird Count dates and contacts in Alaska communities, see the Christmas Bird Count Calendar on the Audubon Alaska website, or contact Beth Peluso at (907) 276-7034 or via email.