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Notes From The Field: Christmas Bird Count

Submitted by Oakhurst artist Monique Wales

YOSEMITE – Binoculars, field guides and cameras in hand, Virginia Lazar and I stepped into the Citizen Science arena via Yosemite’s Christmas Bird Count. New to the birding world, and filled with enthusiasm, we joined the 114th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) taking place all over the Americas from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5, 2014.

By joining the longest running citizen science survey in the world, we helped monitor the health and population trends of our birds while learning about and experiencing the beauty of nature in our mountain area.

Audobon Christmas Bird Count 2013 photo - photo by Virginia LazarOur little corner of the CBC focused on Old El Portal in Foresta and was led by Karen Amstutz, who wears many hats, including Yosemite National Park Ranger, Naturist, and Education Chair with Yosemite Area Audubon Society.

Our group of a dozen or so ranged from long-time, experienced birders that could identify most of the species just by ear, to the rank beginner, such as myself and Virginia, who contributed mainly by spotting movement in the trees or on the ground. The experts were very generous with their knowledge, passionately sharing their zeal for birding with the less seasoned.

Audobon Christmas Bird Count 2013 - photo by Virginia LazarAmong the birds we spotted were the Red-Breasted Sapsucker, American Dipper, Northern Flicker, Red Tailed Hawk, Anna’s Hummingbird, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee and, to no one’s surprise, the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpecker.

We had both wanted to do this for years and used our mutual interest in the CBC to encourage each other to actually follow through with going. It was as fun, educational and interesting as we had hoped it would be!

Audobon Christmas Bird Count - photo by Virginia LazarAs a bonus, we can use the many observation tips and techniques gleaned from our team members to enhance the experience of birding in our own backyards year around. I have no doubt now that this will become an annual tradition!

You still have time to start your own tradition: Oakhurst’s Christmas Bird Count happens Friday, Dec. 20. Anyone wanting to participate can email Vernon Johnson or email Joe Frank.

For more information see the Yosemite Audobon website.

Photos by Virginia Lazar and Monique Wales. Click photos to enlarge for more detail.

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