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Annual bird count yields 3,000 birds, 67 species

Above, a Western Grebe, which during this year
Above, a Western Grebe, which during this year's annual Christmas Audubon bird count, volunteers noted had slightly declined. Judith Roan, event coordinator, says that's not necessarily a trend. During a milder winter, the birds could just be around other parts of the lake.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

During the annual Audubon Society bird count, Island volunteers tallied 3,047 individual birds and 67 different species, a number consistent with the last several years. Included in that count were two great blue herons, seven bald eagles, one red-tailed hawk and two barred owls.

“That’s about the same average that we’ve had in years past, nothing unusual at all,” said event organizer Judith Roan, who’s been participating in one chapter or another for the last ten years.

The annual Christmas bird count, this year conducted on Dec. 28 is hosted in conjunction with the National Audubon Society, and across North, South and Central America. Volunteers split off into groups and follow much the same route they do every year, counting steadily from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Roan says it’s hard to label trends but there are noticeable declines in species like the Western Grebe, which this year tallied 81 birds. The white-bellied water bird has a black streak down its back and head and bright red eyes.

But even with a dip in the Audubon’s official count, it’s hard to determine if during a milder winter, the birds aren’t simply somewhere else around the lake.

While the Mercer Island troupe has a steady volunteer base – 12 participated this year – Roan says she hopes to attract a younger crowd, to keep the tradition going.

“My concern is that we’re not recruiting enough young people. We’re all getting old,” says Roan. “I really encourage young people to take the time to learn how to identify birds and to appreciate these counts, which have a tremendous amount of data. They’re very valuable.”

 

“It’s an important way of being connected to nature,” says Roan.

 

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