Castle Valley birder Greg Halliday is one of more than 70,000 volunteers who participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count. [Photo courtesy of Tom Haraden]

On Saturday, Dec. 15, teams of Moab birders will participate in the 119th National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. This is the 34th count for the Moab area, now coordinated by the Moab Bird Club.

In the late 1890s, sporting counts were held. Hunters held annual competitions to see how many birds could be shot, but there was a growing concern over this practice. The newly-formed Audubon Society organized what was called a Christmas Bird Census, which eventually became the Christmas Bird Count.

The Christmas Bird Count relies on volunteer citizen scientists, in 15 countries, to record the number of different species observed, as well as count the numbers of those present. Over 70,000 volunteers, in more than 2,300 locations, track the health of bird populations through local counts. The data collected will be added to a large database, which will show where winter bird populations are located. Trends will be noted and analyzed by professional scientists.

In the Moab area, participants will be searching every bush, tree, field and cliff in a 15-mile radius. Each team hopes for rare birds to appear in its section as they catalog common winter birds. Last year’s count found a Williamson’s sapsucker, prairie falcon and evening grosbeaks, with a Great Horned Owl turning up for the count. Seventy-five species were recorded by 55 participants.

Teams are assigned a section of the radius to be counted and will spend most of the day in the field. Each team is given a data sheet for recording species and numbers. A designated recorder tallies species and their numbers. The actual official day count time lasts for 24 hours. Bird species not seen on count day may be counted if seen within a period of three days before, or three days after, the official day. This allows a few extra days to look for those species that might normally be seen but don’t show up on the designated day.

To participate in the Christmas Bird Count, contact Marcy Hafner at 435-259-6197 or email Participants don’t need to be experts; novices are placed with seasoned birders and all are welcome. A post-count potluck brunch will be held for participants at The Nature Conservancy office on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 10 a.m. Notes will be compared, and a preliminary review of count numbers will be presented.  

To learn more about the Moab Bird Club’s meetings and activities, contact Nick or Marian Eason at 435-259-6447.

Birds observed and tracked in winter migration