Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mayacamas Christmas Bird Count for Kids

Practicing with binoculars before heading out.
Photo © Sandi Funke.
By TeenNat interns Emma and Ben Hoffman

Every December, Pepperwood, Safari West, and the Petrified Forest all come together to host the Mayacamas Christmas Bird Count For Kids. The bird count involves going out to one of the three properties and counting and identifying all of the bird species we see, then uploading the information to an online database.

So why do we go out and count all the birds we see? It’s because bird populations are changing in response to habitat loss and climate change. By counting the number of birds and the species in a given area, we give scientists data to track bird populations and see what’s going on—whether there’s trouble coming, if a species is rebounding, if territories are changing, etc.

Getting a closer look through a spotting scope.
Photo © Sandi Funke.

Everyone who wants to participate in the bird count gathers each year at one of the aforementioned properties—this year it was Pepperwood. Several expert birders taught everyone how to use binoculars and bird guides, then divided everyone into three groups. An expert or two was on every team to aid in correct identification. The goal of the day was to find the most birds, but we also wanted accuracy. 

One team wandered twisty trails of Pepperwood, another searched the wilds of Safari West, and my team explored the woody Petrified Forest. In my group we went through several biomes, watching all the time for movement in the trees, bushes and grass, and listening for calls that might show where a bird was. One person in the group was designated as the counter—they tallied all the species and number of birds per species that we spotted.
Nicole Barden, Pepperwood Environmental Educator and expert
birder, helps confirm bird identification. Photo © Sandi Funke.

After everyone was done gathering data, we all returned to Pepperwood where we turned in the data and the experts compiled it into one single Excel page. In the end, there was a total of 54 species and 928 birds counted. 

My favorite part was that at the end we got to add our data to the collection of hundreds of bird counts all happening at the same time on There were people all around the world participating, and we got to see the data of our day added to the ever growing pool of information. Scientists are now using the information we collected to study migration and population changes in the species we counted.


Join us for the next Mayacamas Christmas Bird Count for Kids on Saturday, January 16, 2016! Click here to sign up or learn more.

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