Inaugural Christmas Bird Count to be held in Graham County

Photo By Diane Drobka: Northern Mockingbirds are a common year-round bird in the Gila Valley.

Volunteers needed

Contributed Article By Diane Drobka

GRAHAM COUNTY – Are you interested in birds and learning to identify them? You can enhance your birding skills while helping the Gila Valley’s inaugural Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, Dec. 27.

Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide community science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of native bird populations during the winter months. This year, the 120th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will mobilize nearly 80,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,600 locations across the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

Photo By Diane Drobka: White-throated Sparrows, which look somewhat similar to common White-crowned Sparrows that winter here, are a rare visitor to Graham County.

The census is performed within a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles that is broken up into smaller blocks that can be covered by designated teams in one day. Counts take place on a selected day between Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 each year.

Gila Valley volunteers can join in the action by helping to scout and tally birds that are here in the winter during the CBC date on Dec. 27; there could possibly be up to 100 species. To be COVID-safe, teams will be very small, everyone will be wearing masks when less than six feet apart, and volunteers can drive their own vehicles to survey meet-up points.

The circle for the new local count – called the Safford CBC – was drawn to include popular birding locations such as Roper Lake State Park, Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area, Discovery Park, and Dankworth Pond. Volunteers will be assigned to accompany a birder leading the survey in each designated block, thus providing an opportunity for the volunteer to learn more about birds in these areas while the volunteer provides an extra set of eyes to help look for birds.

Photo By Diane Drobka: This Greater Roadrunner fluffed its feathers while warming in the morning sun.

Since the circle includes Safford, Thatcher, Central, and Artesia, community members there who would rather stay home can just watch their bird feeders throughout the day and report sightings along with their location and how long they observed the birds. This can be done directly online by logging into www.eBird.org, creating a personal profile, and then input the number of each species seen. The eBird website is an excellent resource for finding information and photos of birds seen at the dozens of “hotspots” in Graham County, which currently boasts 377 species.

You can also report your Dec. 27 sightings to the Safford CBC Coordinator, Diane Drobka, by leaving a message at 928-485-2744 and she will call you back. Contact her if you would like to join one of the CBC birding teams.

To see a list of other Arizona CBCs, visit www.azfo.org/CBC/2020_2021.html.

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