Kodiak Volunteers Rally for Bird Counts


Diana Gish/KMXT

Local bird-spotting volunteers are getting ready for another Audubon bird count. The second count will take place on Saturday in the Narrow Cape-Kalsin Bay area. The next count comes on the heels of the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Rich Macintosh is the compiler of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count which took place on December 19th.

(Bird Count 1 "We saw 14, 430… out as well.")

The Christmas Bird Count takes place over a 24-hour period and covers a 15 mile diameter circle.

(Bird Count 2 "We had 45 … few different things.")

Spotting some species of birds on Kodiak requires taking the job to great heights since some birds, such as Ptarmigan, are found only in high alpine areas.

The mountain climbing bird spotters are affectionately referred to as "SWAT" teams. Patrick Saltonstall is a member of the Ptarmigan "SWAT" team. He said the climbing conditions weren’t the worst he’s seen but hoar frost and ocean-effect snow made conditions hazardous. Saltonstall said he stayed away from steep slopes to avoid avalanches.

(Bird Count 3 "I saw one … pride, I guess.")

This year, for the first time, a "SWAT" team was formed to search for the Blue Heron. That team was also successful in its quest. The Blue Heron can be hard to spot but it’s not the rarest bird the Audubon volunteers saw in the 24-hour period.

(Bird Count 4 "There were six … saw one of.")

The Christmas Bird Count falls within a period known as "count week." Three days before and three days after the main count day there is a "catch-all" period for spotting additional birds that might otherwise be missed. Those birds are recorded in a separate list. In Kodiak, the extra days allowed for the spotting of three more species of birds: the Northern Shrike, the Sharp Shin Hawk and the 3-Toed Woodpecker.

Kodiak’s Christmas Bird Count is part of a National Audubon Society tradition that dates back to the turn of last century. The mid-winter bird event, which takes place in North and South America, provides information on birds as well as providing a recreational learning activity. In Kodiak, the Christmas Bird Watch has taken place in its current form since 1973.

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