Thirty people volunteered to participate in Dillingham’s bird count on Saturday. Last year, 18 participated. The volunteers this year spotted 19 species, including the possible sighting of a species new to Dillingham’s Christmas count.
Dillingham bird watchers watched their feeders or got out in some light rain and snow to take stock of the feathered critters hanging around town this time of year. Volunteers counted 19 species, which is similar to last year’s count of 18 different types of birds.
“This year we saw the common culprits: the bald eagles, the downy woodpeckers, the grey jays, the magpies, ravens, all the chickadees and then the nut hatches,” said Kara Hilwig, the pilot biologist at the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. Hilwig organized the event in Dillingham.
In addition to these regular species, one observer said they saw two golden-crowned kinglets. Hilwig is working to confirm that sighting, which would be the first golden-crowned kinglet sighting during Dillingham’s Christmas Bird Count.
For the past two years, the white-crowned sparrow has also made an appearance during the count.
“This is kind of giving us a little bit of indication that the winter season is a little more mild than it could be,” Hilwig said of the white-crowned sparrow sightings.
Another trend over the last few years is the rising raven count. Last year, Dillingham bird watchers counted around 280 ravens. This year, they spotted 320. Hilwig hypothesizes that it has to do with how much trash is exposed at the Dillingham landfill.
“I think folks may have just kind of started forgetting about glass and tin and that type of thing in their trash, so the incinerator started getting clogged up. So the folks at the dump ended up taking trash and actually sorting it out and exposing it to places where birds could have access to it—bald eagles, magpies and common ravens specifically,” said Hilwig.
Volunteer participation is also on the rise this year. Thirty birdwatchers participated in this year’s count, in contrast with last year’s 18. The Togiak NWR worked to pique interest early this year, hosting a bird feeder making workshop a few weeks before the count. According to Hilwig, it worked.
“We had a lot of families that were watching the feeders that we built a couple weeks ago over at the university. So I was very pleased with the turnout,” Hilwig said.
Dillingham’s bird count is part of the international Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Thousands of volunteers across North and South America count birds between December 14 and January 5. It gives biologists and wildlife agencies more data for their research.
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