Joshua Tree National Park will hold this year’s Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, January 1, 2010. The Count is held each winter as part of the international Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Birdwatchers will canvas a 15-mile diameter count circle from dawn to dusk in an effort to record each species and individual bird. The resulting count data is used to assess the status of winter bird populations. Begun in 1967, the Joshua Tree Christmas Bird Count is now in its 43nd year, making it the park’s longest ongoing wildlife survey. Last year, 50 species were recorded on the Joshua Tree Count.
Interested birdwatchers who wish to participate in the Joshua Tree Christmas Bird Count should meet at either Indian Cove Ranger Station or West Entrance. The count will begin at 7 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. Participants should bring transportation, warm clothing, binoculars, food, and water and plan on spending the entire day in the field. Some routes may involve considerable walking or hiking. Prior bird watching experience is desirable, but not required. The Audubon Society requires a $5 fee from all participants, payable to the count compiler, for administration of the count (see http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/).
The Christmas Bird Count was started in December, 1900 when Frank Chapman implored readers of the journal Bird-Lore to count birds during the holidays, rather than shoot them as had been past tradition. Twenty-seven people turned out for Chapman’s first count. Over 100 years later, more than 50,000 participants take part each year in over 2,000 counts held in North America and elsewhere around the world. The Christmas Bird Count is now the largest bird survey ever conducted and the ultimate source of data about winter bird populations.
For more information on this year’s Joshua Tree Christmas Bird Count, contact Joe Zarki at 760-367-5520, or Pat Pilcher at 760-367-5523.