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Enjoy birdwatching? Help biologists gather information during annual bird count

Vernal — If you've ever watched birds, you know how unique and interesting they can be. Whether you've just started birdwatching or you are an advanced "birder," consider heading outdoors this month and in January to help gather important data about birds during the 121st Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Yellow-headed blackbird tilting its head

As part of the annual nationwide bird count, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to host their 16th local bird count at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge at 19001 E. Wildlife Refuge Road in Randlett, Uintah County, on Saturday, Dec. 19 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There will also be several Christmas Bird Counts taking place along the Wasatch Front and in central Utah. They will be held at the following dates and locations:

Bird counts for the Salt Lake City and Jordan River areas are being led by Great Salt Lake Audubon. Anyone interested in participating can get more information on their website. Many of the counts will be limiting the number of participants this year, due to COVID-19 concerns, and those interested in participating in the Salt Lake City area bird counts should RSVP to Ian Batterman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Those interested in participating in the Fish Springs bird counts should RSVP to Jonathan Barth at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Information on the other bird counts can be found on the Utah Birds website.

Each bird count takes place in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and volunteers will be given specific routes to drive and hike through the area, counting every bird they see or hear during the route. All birds will be counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds and species in the area. Attendees must follow social distancing guidelines, including wearing a mask if they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance during the surveys. Contact the organizer of the count in your area for more details about the changes this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

"During these annual counts, we've collected more than 100 years of information about birds. We're using that data to assess the overall health of bird populations and to implement any conservation actions that may be needed for species survival," DWR Regional Conservation Outreach Manager Tonya Kieffer-Selby said. "Recent studies have shown that over 3 billion birds have been lost in North America in the last 50 years, which is why collecting this data is so important. Birds are indicators of what's happening in an environment. The data we gather about our local birds provides valuable information to conservation efforts worldwide."

Volunteers who participate in the northeastern Utah bird count may see a variety of birds, including robins, shrikes, Canada geese, sandhill cranes, bald and golden eagles, waterfowl, and sometimes, rare species. There's an even better chance that you will see porcupines scattered throughout the refuge.

"I've been a birder since I was 9 years old, and this will be my 22nd year participating in a Christmas Bird Count," Kieffer-Selby said. "All birds are unique, which makes this a challenging and fun event that I love to do year after year."

Participants should bring their own pair of binoculars to use during the count. You can attend for the whole day or for a short time, but if you plan to stay for the whole day, you should pack a lunch, bring water and dress warmly.

Audubon's 121st Christmas Bird Count will be conducted nationwide between the dates of Dec. 14, 2020 and Jan. 5, 2021.

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