- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 26, 2018

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Bird enthusiasts in Minot are helping the National Audubon Society compile data by counting and identifying birds in their hometown.

Organizer Ron Martin told the Minot Daily News that bird numbers have been trending down since the city’s first Christmas Bird Count in 1981. Martin added that the bird counts give “a nice comparison to see where things are going these days.”

The National Audubon Society began its international Christmas Bird Count in 1900.

“When I first started doing this, 35 years ago, we’d go out in the fields and there would be thousands of birds. It was so hard to count because there was so many,” said Sherry Leslie, a Minot participant. “Now we’re down to just a very few. Not only are the species down but the numbers, too.”

Some of the birds spotted in the count are not native to the area, including a varied thrush and four long-tailed ducks. Varied thrush is generally limited to the forests of the Pacific northwest, while long-tailed ducks are breed north of the Canadian provinces. They make their way south to avoid the harsh Canadian winter hoping for better food supply, though it’s rare that they make an appearance in North Dakota.

A dozen bird watchers participated in the Christmas Bird Counts in Minot. Earlier counts took place in surrounding areas such as the Garrison Dam, Lostwood, Des Lacs, J. Clark Salyer and Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuges.

“The Christmas Bird Count has been a great phenomenon, a citizen science project that has made such a difference,” said Joe Super, a high school biology teacher and participant in the recent count. “It’s a great thing to carry on. I bring high school students out to get them interested.”

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