BAKER — Be part of the longest running Citizen Science project in the world and join this year’s Snake Valley Christmas Bird Count. It will be held Monday, December 14, 2015, starting at 8 am and continuing throughout the day. Both experienced and inexperienced birders are welcome.

The Christmas Bird Count started in 1900, when an ornithologist thought it might be good to count the birds rather than shoot them. Friends joined in, and the tradition started. Over the years, the Christmas Bird Count has expanded to over 2400 locations and more than 72,000 counters. This will be the 19th year for the Snake Valley Christmas Bird Count.

Nearly two decades of data have shown trends, such as the arrival and increase of Eurasian collared doves, rock pigeons, wild turkeys, and red-breasted nuthatches. Some bird species have shown a decline, like sage sparrows and white-breasted nuthatches. Every year, between 2,200 and 13,000 birds are counted in one day. The most common birds are mallards, European starlings, and horned larks. Between 43 and 57 bird species are counted, usually dependent on the weather and if the water sources are frozen or not.

Park ecologist Gretchen Baker says, “Spending a day counting birds is a fun experience. You learn where the birds might be and keep trying to find more. It’s like a treasure hunt, with birds as the reward.” Routes are done by driving, hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing. They vary in length and elevation.

The Snake Valley Christmas Bird Count is good practice for the Ely Christmas Bird Count, which will be held two days later, December 16. Contact Marian Lichtler at the BLM, 775-289-1819, for more information.

Birders will have another opportunity to assist with birds at the park during the Bird BioBlitz, to be held May 20-22, 2016. This fun-filled weekend will include bird walks, talks, demonstrations, and activities as participants attempt to find the most birds ever in one weekend at the park.

If you’d like to sign up or learn more about the Snake Valley Christmas Bird Count, contact Melissa Renfro at 775-234-7154 or Gretchen Baker at 775-234-7541.

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