Volunteers flocking to count birds

  • Thursday, December 26, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

MARYSVILLE – It’s for the birds, and people, too.

For the 43rd year, volunteers will be taking part in the North County Christmas Bird Count Dec. 28.

Organizer Scott Atkinson said anyone can take part. Last year, 125 people counted over 44,000 birds of 138 species – second-highest among 40 statewide behind only Sequim-Dungeness.

Volunteers have gotten creative over the years in how they’ve counted – some turning it into a fun outside adventure. Different counting methods have included: by bicycle along Centennial Trail, by kayak along Steamboat Slough, by boat to Hat Island, and of course by foot and by car.

The counting area goes north to Island Crossing, west to Kayak Point, east to Frontier Airport and west Lake Stevens, and south to downtown Everett (Hewitt and Rucker), and a slim strip of southernmost Camano Island.

“While most territories covered on foot are full, we especially seek people who want to report birds from their own property,” Atkinson said.

Counters are asked to send give their numbers to Atkinson at 425-210-2716 or scottratkinson@hotmail.com.

“Here is a chance to look up from the cell phone, laptop or big screen, work off a few of those extra holiday pounds in an Christmastime tradition that dates back over 100 years” in some parts of the country, Atkinson said.

He added that every year there are surprises – birds turning up that aren’t supposed to be here.

“One year a Snowy Owl from the Far North showed up on Jetty Island, yet nearby on Spencer Island there were six Tree and two Barn Swallows – as if wintering in southern Mexico,” he said.

The warming trend in winters over the last decades has brought the California Scrub-Jay to the region. Fifty years ago, the jay was not known north of Portland, OR. But slow, steady movement northward has brought them to Marysville in the last five years. Over the years, as the popularity of feeding birds has increased dramatically, the yearly snapshot has provided increasingly valuable data showing how land-use, climactic and other changes are reflected in nature. Ruffed Grouse has seemingly left the count area with all the increasing housing construction, while the Anna’s Hummingbird has increased exponentially — thanks to the countless hummingbird feeders left out through winter. Birds preferring suburbs with ornamental plantings and feeders, like the Black-capped Chickadee and Downy Woodpecker, have also increased.

Atkinson said volunteer citizen participation is what makes it such a great event.

“It is citizen science at its best — an annual Christmastime event that draws the community together to provide a snapshot of the region’s birdlife,” he said.

All of the counting areas are based on a 15-mile diameter circle, in which all of the wild birds are counted on a single day — rain or shine.

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