Anyone, regardless of experience, is welcome to join the annual Salida-area Christmas Bird Count, which will take place Dec. 14.

This year is the National Audubon Society’s 120th Christmas Bird Count, according to a press release. About 50 counts occur in Colorado and more than 2,500 counts throughout the U.S.

Every count area is a 15-mile diameter circle, and each count must take place during the weeks of Dec. 14-Jan 5. Salida’s count circle reaches from Hecla Junction to just east of Salida, south to Mears Junction and west to the Shavano trailhead.

Locally, those with beginner birding abilities will be teamed with more experienced birders. All participants must be prepared to spend a full day outside starting at dawn. Binoculars are required.

Anyone who has a bird feeder within the circle can also participate by counting from their home.

Both the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association Birding Club and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are supporters of the Salida count.

To participate in the Salida count this year or for any questions, email Sally Waterhouse at smwaterh@owu.edu) before Dec. 10. Participants will be assigned to teams and given information about where to meet before count day.

The count began as an alternative to the tradition of shooting as many birds as possible on Christmas Day. Now the Christmas Bird Count is one of the largest citizen science endeavors in the world, the Audubon Society reported.

The data collected from the annual counts is maintained by the Audubon Society and can be accessed by researchers worldwide. Since the data has been collected for many years, it is particularly valuable for investigating long-term changes in species numbers and distribution.

More information about the Christmas Bird Count is available on the Audubon website, audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count.

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