This holiday season, 4-H Birders took to the Sitka streets to participate in the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird count. The count originally began on Christmas day in 1900 as an attempt to exchange the holiday tradition of shooting birds with one focused on conserving them. Now, with about 115 years’ worth of data, the count has developed into a significant source for observing changes in bird species. In 2012 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited the Christmas Bird Count data as one of twenty-six major indicators of climate change. The significant results of this worldwide effort demonstrate the true power of citizen science.
The Christmas Bird Count required 4-H birders to do what they do best –observe and identify birds! As a whole, Sitka was split into various territories so that groups would not double count species around the Island. 4-H members were in charge of counting birds in the neighborhoods adjacent to Crescent Harbor. At the start, ravens and gulls flew from rooftops to lampposts, making the count a success before we left the Baranof elementary parking lot.
Each bird species we encountered brought with it a renewed excitement as we peeked through our binoculars to get a better look. We often reviewed similar questions to help us identify the species: “What color are the legs? What shape are the wings? How does it fly? What call does it make?” 4-Hers know well that successful birding requires a keen eye for detail.
Over a 2-hour period, our 4-H birding group counted 199 birds and 16 different species within our designated territory. Some of our most interesting sightings included an Anna’s hummingbird, a Eurasian collared dove and a Northern flicker. We deduced that this abundance within a few residential street blocks was a result of the many feeders throughout the neighborhood which offer a convenient food source to our feathery friends. Our group ended the day with great satisfaction, knowing that we had done our duty as citizen scientists.