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Oakhurst And Merced Wildlife Refuge Bird Counts

Acorn Woodpeckers are among the many avian species that will likely be observed in the five upcoming local Christmas Bird Counts in the Yosemite/central Sierra area. Photo credit: Vernon Johnson

Contributed by Len McKenzie, YAAS –

MOUNTAIN AREA – The Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) continues this week, as intrepid observers in Oakhurst and Merced take to the field for one day to make a record of all the birds they see and hear.

Organized by ornithologist Frank Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History in 1900 as an alternative to Christmas Day side hunts, an English shooting tradition, the first Christmas Bird Count was held in 25 U.S. locations and attracted 27 participants.

Held every year since then, the Audubon-sponsored CBC is now an international event, with more than 2,000 individual counts scattered across the Americas and drawing thousands of volunteers.

This year will mark the 119th CBC – the longest-running citizen-science project in the world.

The CBC protocols are rigorous and precise. Each count must be held during a single-day 24-hour period between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 within a prescribed 15-mile diameter circle. A compiler organizes and coordinates each count, tallies numbers, provides guidance as needed and assures all protocols are met to protect the integrity of the long-term database.

Birding experience is not necessary to participate in these counts. All eyes and ears are welcome.

Five Christmas Bird Counts are scheduled in the central Sierra foothill area this year, as follows:

  • The Mariposa CBC will occur Saturday, December 15. Contact Len McKenzie at (209) 769-0566 or lenmckenzie@yahoo.com for more information and to get instructions and assignments to specific zones within the Mariposa count circle. (Please note that participants will not assemble in town for a pre-count meeting that morning, as in previous years, but rather will go directly to their assigned areas to meet their party leaders.)
  • The Yosemite CBC, started in 1932, is slated for the following day, Sunday, Dec. 16. Prospective counters should contact Sarah Stock, sarah_stock@nps.gov, to register and receive zone assignments for the Yosemite count.
  • The Lost Lake CBC in Fresno County will be held Saturday, Dec. 29. Visit www.fresnoaudubon.org for details.
  • The Merced National Wildlife Refuge CBC will occur on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Contact Larry Parmeter, lanpar362@gmail.com, for additional information and instructions.
  • The Oakhurst CBC will take place Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. Participants should meet at the Burger King in Oakhurst at 7 a.m. that day for instructions and zone assignments. Call (559) 760-6327 or email Vernon Johnson at roygbiv@nctv.com for more information.

Count coordinators emphasize that birding experience is not required to participate in a Christmas Bird Count. All levels of experience are encouraged to join.

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