Bristol Bay's Christmas Bird Counts are on Saturday

Dec 29, 2017

Dillingham, Naknek and King Salmon bird watchers will participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count this weekend.

Credit Avery Lill/ KDLG

Bristol Bay bird watchers will gather tomorrow in Dillingham and King Salmon to participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Thousands of volunteers gather across North and South America for the tradition, which began in 1900. Dillingham has been participating for 24 years, King Salmon for 32 years.

Kara Hilwig, the pilot biologist at the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge is organizing the event in Dillingham. She calls it “citizen science.” In other words, volunteers collect data about how many and what kind of birds are in their areas. That research assists biologists and wildlife agencies in understanding long-term trends. Hilwig notes several patterns that have emerged in the Dillingham area.

“We see the irruptive species like cross bills. They’ll show up one year, like last year, and then we won’t see them hardly at all, like this year. We do see patterns like that, which are expected. But we also see patterns where some of the birds that normally would not have been here over the Christmas Bird Count are starting to be residents. So that’s an indication of warming conditions,” said Hilwig. She pointed to white-crowned sparrows and golden-crowned sparrows as examples of species that have cropped up in recent Christmas Bird Counts that in earlier years would have migrated further south by this point in the winter.

Participants in Dillingham have the option of counting birds at a feeder or of going on a bird-watching walk or drive. To participate, contact Kara Hilwig at 842-1063 or email her at kara_hilwig@fws.gov. The Togiak NWR will host an optional pancake breakfast for participants at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Naknek and King Salmon residents who wish to participate should meet at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in King Salmon at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. Questions can be directed to Melissa Cady at 907-246-3339.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.