- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

SOLDOTNA, Alaska (AP) - Bird enthusiasts are preparing to face below-zero temperatures to help with the annual Christmas Bird Count in Soldotna.

The annual count is scheduled for Saturday and is part of the National Audubon Society’s worldwide Christmas Bird Count, which gets people to help gather data on birds in their communities in early winter, The Peninsula Clarion reported (https://bit.ly/2ht6vd6).

Similar counts are also scheduled in Homer and Seward.

Event organizer Jack Sinclair said the count is both a good way for fledgling bird watchers to get involved and an important data gathering exercise.

“This is really a perfect activity for people who are just starting to learn birds,” he said.

Recently, data gathered by birdwatchers on shorebirds’ use of the Kasilof River estuary helped the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water decide how to develop a parking lot near the river. Data also contributes to providing a long-term picture of how bird behaviors are changing over time in response to climate or other environmental factors.

“You can see the differences in numbers and how they’ve changed over time and when certain birds show up,” Sinclair said.

Beyond being useful, Kasilof-based birder Ken Tarbox said the Christmas count can also be fun, especially if you can find a rare bird.

“Whenever you’re in the middle of winter in Alaska, you’re always looking for rare birds, but the count very seldom here in our area finds a rare bird,” he said. “But there’s a lot of neat resident birds out there to look at. Just a few days ago, on the north bank of the Kasilof River, there were over 1,000 rock sand pipers.”

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, https://www.peninsulaclarion.com


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