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Minden Christmas Bird Count aids conservation

by Sarah Hauck
shauck@recordcourier.com
Birder watchers participating in the sixth annual Minden Christmas Bird Count may see a Northern Flicker like this during the counting time.
Special to The R-C |

As a Bewick’s wren bounced around Jim Woods’ yard last week as he explained why the Minden Christmas Bird Count has been so important.

Woods will lead fellow birders or those interested in the conservation effort during the sixth annual bird count 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 3.

“This is citizen science. It’s contributions made by John and Jane Does,” Woods of Birding Under Nevada Skies said. “We’re not into the complicated scientific efforts, but we will help create a database for scientists to use based on the number of birds and species we see. Anyone that wants to know about the birds in Minden, Nevada and the birds here in 2015 can look at this and know.”



Birders will meet at Woodett’s Diner in Gardnerville where they will be broken up into groups to count birds in a section of a 15-mile diameter circle of the Minden area.

From there the birders will watch for and count the different species and number of birds that they see within their section of the circle.



The data will be collected at a tally dinner following the watch and then sent to the National Audubon Society.

“About 99 species and close to 10,000 birds were counted last year. Our highest number counted was about 22,000 a few years ago,” Woods said. “What our numbers indicates is that this global warming thing is real. The birds are moving around and the scientists take at look at that and try to figure out what they are doing and why.”

The numbers collected by the Minden circle will be one of more than 3,000 circles counting birds on Jan. 3.

The National Christmas Bird Count started 115 years ago by the National Audubon Society.

It is known as the longest ongoing scientific survey in the U. S.

“It takes a whole nation of birdwatchers to generate these pieces of miniscule information,” Woods said. “This is where the rubber meets the road for us birders. It’s a big conservation effort. Could you imagine no birds in the world? It would be flat-ass boring.”

Fifteen to 20 bird watchers have joined the Minden effort the last five years.

However, birders can help the citizen science effort from their own home in a feeder count that will be on the same day as the field counts.

“The feeder count is for the infirmed or for those that can’t make it. You sit and watch the birds that come to your feeder in your backyard,” Woods said. “It works out easily for people that don’t want to go outdoors, a couple of years ago it was so cold, if you don’t want to go out you can stay home and count birds.”

Feeder watchers will watch for birds and species for two hours and average the number and send it to Mary Ellen Conaway, the feeder watcher coordinator.

Woods explained that Carson Valley is a popular stopping spot for several species of birds during the winter months.

Birding is a hobby that doesn’t require anything but the patience to look for birds and learn about them Woods said.

“The nice thing about birding is that it doesn’t take anything. You just go out and look at birds. The best thing about birders is that you’re associated with people that give a damn about something other than themselves,” Woods said. “They care about life around them. They take pictures of them, travel the world trying to create a bird list and try to see that one particular bird. That’s why I like birders.”

A spotted towhee replaced the Bewick’s Wren under Woods’ bird feeder as he finished explaining why the Minden Christmas Count is important.

“This was my mom’s favorite bird. They live up in the Pine Nuts and now here’s one of her birds wishing me a merry Christmas. Who wouldn’t want to start the new year out helping a cause?”

For information about the count, contact Woods at 775-720-7009, 265-3914 or at jim.woods@charter.net.

For more information about the feeder watch, contact Conaway at 265-7651 or meconaway@charter.net.