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NATURE HAPPENINGS December 2011

Moab’s Annual Christmas Bird Count
by Damian Fagan

Damian Fagan's blog


For birdwatchers the Christmas Bird Count, known as the “CBC,” is a popular wintertime holiday pursuit. How popular you might ask? During the 2009-2010 count, which wasCassins Finch the 110th anniversary of the count, there were 2160 counts and over 60,000 observers throughout North America and parts of Latin America. Antarctica’s Camp Crozier count did not happen that year; I’m presuming gale force winds and sub-freezing temperatures had something to do with the birders not venturing outside that day.

So what is the CBC? Sponsored by Dark Eyed Juncothe National Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in North America. It started as an alternative to a holiday hunting competition where participants bagged birds and game animals. The biggest pile of fur and feathers won. The fledgling Audubon Society’s Frank Chapman organized a new event that focused on counting, not killing birds. Hatched as the “Christmas Bird Census” in 1900, 27 birders recorded birds in 25 counts scattered across the United States that first year.

Western BluebirdThe census molted into the “Christmas Bird Count” and now occurs each year during a two-week period between mid-December and early January. This year represents the count’s 112th anniversary. “Everyone who takes part does it for the love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition,” said Marcy Hafner, the Moab count coordinator. “Knowing what the CBC has contributed towards the research of bird populations adds a special significance to this event.”

So how does it work? There is a pre-determined count circle with a 15-mile diameter that includes portions of Castle, Grand and Spanish Valley. The circle includes residential neighborhoods, the Matheson Wetlands Preserve, a stretch of the Colorado River, a corner of Arches National Park, and surrounding canyons and uplands. The count coordinator organizes teams that include experienced and novice birdwatchers. Teams venture forth into assigned areas on count day to record species and numbers of individual birds observed in their areas.

Mourning DoveGreat Horned OwlWhat does the CBC capture? The Christmas Bird Count provides a snapshot of winter bird occurrence, and provides conservationists and researchers with data to analyze long term health and population status for birds in North America. Considering the wealth of data, some national or local trends of bird populations may emerge that reflect environmental conditions. Birders may also uncover unusual or rare occurrences of species. “Last year a ferruginous hawk, a great horned owl, several merlins and peregrine falcons were added to the species list for the day,” explained Marcy. “So if you want to add some extra spice to your holiday season, come on out and join the fun!”

This year’s Moab CBC will be held on December 17. Contact Marcy Hafner at marcymoab@yahoo.com or 259-6197 to sign up. Remember to dress for the weather, which can be balmy or freezing. The wrap-up potluck brunch, a true highlight of the count, is Sunday, December 18 at The Nature Conservancy office, 900 W. Kane Creek Blvd, at 10:00 a.m. Good birding!

Damian Fagan is an accomplished writer who has published a number of guide books as well as numerous articles. If you would like to read more or find out what Damian is up to follow this link to Damian Fagan's blog.

 


Change of the Seasons
By Jordan Perez


Winter view from Dead Horse Point State ParkThe seasons are now teetering between fall and winter and the roar of tourist season has vanished. December brings tranquility to Dead Horse Point that seemed unimaginable just a short time ago. The hiking trails remain open offering hikers the chance to soak in astonishing views. These are the views that have inspired countless artists and left lasting impressions on visitors worldwide. Winter visitors to the park gain the pleasure of hiking trails where the footprints of others have almost entirely faded, leaving an unspoiled landscape. The Intrepid Trail System remains open until the first big snowfall for those mountain bikers that refuse to let the changing seasons keep their tires out of the dirt. For cold weather campers, the campground offers heated running water restrooms all winter long. photo of a  bird

The 2nd annual Christmas Bird Count will kick off winter in the park on December 21st. Last year’s event turned out a great list of birds. With luck this year we can expand that list and even add a few rarely seen species. Participants will scour the park, making use of all passable trails in hopes of catching a glimpse of a Chukar, Northern Goshawk, Pinyon Jay or a number of other birds that make their home in the Dead Horse Point area. Interested birders should contact the park for more information.

The photographs of Tom Till continue to adorn the walls of the Bighorn Art Gallery. To view the exhibit, “Breathtaking - the Vistas of Dead Horse Point”, be sure to arrive at the visitor center between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. as winter hours are now in effect. The photographic works of Tom Till call attention to the visual power of the canyons surrounding Dead Horse Point.

Dead Horse Point State Park is located nine miles north of Moab on US 191, and 23 miles south on SR 313. The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the winter. The park is open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day but the visitor center is closed. Park admission is $10 per vehicle. For more information, contact the park at 435-259-2614.



 

 

 
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