FOR THE BIRDS: 92nd annual count to take place Dec. 30
They've seen it all: rain, snow, fog, freezing temperatures. But still they gather in the early morning darkness on the last Saturday of the year to do one thing: count birds.
This year's 92nd annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Audubon Society of Portland, will take place from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 30 at five locations in the metro area.
Clackamas County resident Dan Strong is the Area 2 leader for the Southeast Portland bird count, which includes a number of sites in the Milwaukie sector.
"Folks interested in joining the count need to visit the Portland Audubon website for contact information to obtain details on the area they choose to participate in," he said.
The website is audubonportland.org; once there, click on Christmas Bird Count, scroll down through the map and look for the area of interest. All area leaders' contact information is published there.
Prior knowledge of how many people wish to participate in each area is crucial, Strong said, because "offering meeting locations for a count as large as Portland creates a chaotic environment, not only at the meeting locale, but also throughout the day, which detracts from everyone's enjoyment."
According to the Audubon Society of Portland, last year 221 field observers and 128 feeder watchers found 118 species in the Portland area. Those 349 participants made the Portland count the second largest in the United States.
More than 64 bird counters fanned out over the Southeast Portland and Milwaukie areas during last year's event.
"We recorded 14,018 individual birds, an approximately 25 percent increase from the six-year average, and we recorded 90 different species, which now happens to be the exact average for the past six years," Strong said.
In the Milwaukie area, Strong led a group of counters to sites that included the Three Creeks Natural Area, Furnberg Park and the pond at Giadanj Estates, just off King Road.
Birds recorded by this group included the American kestrel, Lincoln's sparrow, Cooper's hawk, robins, coots, bufflehead, crows, ring-necked doves, mourning doves and hundreds of Canada and cackling geese.
Unusual finds included Bohemian waxwings, sora, cinnamon teal, eared grebe, burrowing owl, American bittern and the black-throated gray warbler.
Once bird counters have gathered at the meeting sites and signed up, groups will be assigned to specific areas and will carpool to those sites.
Then, "we will attempt to count and identify every bird we see and/or hear in our assigned sectors. Don't forget your binoculars and favorite identification guide if you wish," Strong said.
He advises bird counters to be prepared for cold weather: Wear plenty of layers and appropriate walking shoes and bring a hat and gloves.
The count takes place all day on Dec. 30, but counters can leave earlier than 5 p.m. if they cannot stay the entire time. Notify your group leader of time constraints as soon as possible.
Strong also advises people to bring snacks, lunch and something to drink.
For those who cannot participate in the outdoor activity, the Audubon Society of Portland encourages people with bird feeders to spend some time counting the birds coming to feeders within the 15-mile diameter of the Christmas Bird Count circle on the Audubon website at audubonportland.org/local-birding/cbc. Then scroll down under the map to see information about how to be a feeder watcher, click on the link and follow the instructions.
The Christmas Bird Count is a national activity, and the Portland results will be sent to the National Audubon Society.
The count is important in helping determine bird population trends, Strong said, adding that it is "the longest continuous ornithological dataset, and since it relies so heavily on nonprofessional counters, it is truly citizen science at its best."
He added, "The information gathered here is put together with other surveys to give a good snapshot of the overall health of bird populations throughout North America."
Trends in bird populations correlate with habitat loss and provide information about the health of our natural resources, Strong said.
Those interested in learning what the other four Portland areas observed may join the Grand Compilation held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30, at the Audubon House, 5151 N.W. Cornell Road, Portland.
Watch the birdie!
What: The 92nd annual Christmas Bird Count
When: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 30
Where: Five different areas in a 15-mile radius in the Portland metro area
Details: To see a map of the Portland count, visit the Audubon Society of Portland website at audubonportland.org and click on Christmas Bird Count. Those wishing to count birds in the Milwaukie area need to scroll down to Dan Strong's contact information and RSVP. He will then send an email with details about the meeting site.