The public is invited to participate in the national Christmas Bird Count events at Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
Christmas Bird Counts occur across the U.S. from Dec. 14 through the first week of January. Information from the counts is submitted to National Audubon Society and used by scientists to determine population trends of birds.
The Quivira bird count in Stafford County will start at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 14, and continue into the afternoon. Groups will meet at the visitors center at 1434 NE 80th St., rural Stafford, and volunteers may stay as long as they like.
“It is helpful to have binoculars,” said Barry Jones at the Wildlife Refuge. However, anyone can participate and no special skills or training are required.
Mike Rader from the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism said there are already 26 people signed up for the Quivira count, and preregistration is required. For more information send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cheyenne Bottoms count will take place on Monday, Dec. 19 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Participants will gather at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center at 592 NE K-96 in Barton County to organize groups.
“All ages and abilities are welcome to attend and there is no charge, but participation for at least half of the day is recommended,” said KWEC Director Curtis Wolf. A lunch will be provided to participants courtesy of the KWEC and The Nature Conservancy. Preregistration is required. Call the KWEC, 877-243-9268, for more information.
What to expect
Rader said the number of waterfowl at Quivira has decreased since the recent freeze, so numbers will probably be down this year. But there will be other types of birds, similar to those expected at Cheyenne Bottoms.
“Independent of weather, we typically document a lot of raptors (hawks and falcons), many of which over-winter in this area, and good diversity of grassland species, like sparrows and meadowlarks, as well as other song-birds common to local forested areas, like woodpeckers, cardinals, nuthatches and bluebirds,” Wolf said.
History at Cheyenne Bottoms
Robert Penner at The Nature Conservancy writes that the first known Christmas Bird Count in Barton County took place in 1958 with the center of the circle just north of Ellinwood.
“Unlike many bird counts that focus only on the total number of species seen, the Christmas count is an actual census that seeks to count every bird of every species sighted. To do this, groups are organized within count circles that have a 15-mile diameter. Within that circle, participants follow a prescribed route for the all-day count. A single count compiler, generally an experienced birder, organizes each circle and is able to offer advice and guidance to new participants and novice birders.”
The count circle now encompasses all of the Cheyenne Bottoms Basin and parts of Great Bend, Hoisington and Ellinwood. Over the years, the count has recorded 151 different species.