By Vern Hee
Here is an annual event the entire family can enjoy for absolutely no money, which is really hard to come by these days.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that fits the bill. It doesn’t hurt that it also benefits scientific studies. Really, it does not matter what age, as long as you can count you can participate. The event starts on Feb. 15 and lasts until Feb. 18. This is a nationwide event which will eventually become worldwide.
What is great is there is no admission to any clubs or society and no experience is necessary. The count helps researchers of Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society track bird health population throughout the nation.
Carol Cantino, president of the West Branch of the Red Rock Audubon Society, said Pahrump took second in the state of Nevada for the number of birds counted in this event, but was dropped down into fourth place for the number of checklists reported.
She said last year Pahrump counted 70 species and turned in 27 checklists, which totaled 5,851 birds counted. Cantino hopes to expand public involvement this year.
The experienced birder said Pahrump can excel because of a few dedicated birders that help out each year. She would like to enlist more inexperienced birders, and people who have never done a bird count in their lives.
“We need more community involvement and more people filing checklists. You don’t need to be an expert in bird identification. Most people already know a Robin or a Greater Roadrunner when they see one. I would ask that person to participate and file a report on those birds,” said Cantino.
She said all the checklists and recordkeeping can be done online.
Her group of birders will also be holding some special events during the count to get people interested and make it easier to fill out the checklist. Each day of the count the Pahrump branch of the Audubon society will be at different locations around town holding bird walks, which are listed above.
Cantino has been scouting areas in the valley gathering information prior to the bird count.
“We have been scouting areas early. Sunday we found 13 Tundra Swans and we found a Sage Thrasher. So, we are finding out where the locations of these birds are and we hope they stay in that location for the Feb. 15 and 18 counts.
“Remember, this is not a competition, but a citizen scientific study to help Cornell University. That is why we can only count what we actually see during the four-day period. Not what we saw last week.
“What we saw last week may have migrated to another area and will be counted by another person. I would also like to say that the West branch of the Red Rock Audubon Society has 10 pair of binoculars to lend anyone who wishes to participate in any Red Rock Audubon Society bird walk or bird count,” she said.
The bird lover said it is all about the birds. She and her husband just love birds.
“We really just have a great interests in birds and this started with me as a young girl and was renewed when I met Len Warren, the Shoshone Birdman.
Darlene Feener, a birder and member of the Red Rock Audubon Society, will be helping organize the walks. She has been doing the bird count for three to four years in Pahrump and said she does this every year because she has a passion for birds.
“I got interested in birds at a young age, 13. I remember I started loving birds after I went to the zoo and saw Flamingos. Anything that bright pink you get excited about, but actually I didn’t really get into it until I was older. I have birded all over the United States. I love to keep track of what is in an area. Pahrump has a lot of birds,” said Feener.
Feener feels that Cornell University sponsors this event to get people involved and interested in birds.
“A lot of people don’t even know that birds are out there. If people go out and appreciate what they have, they are more likely to be concerned with the habitat around them and not destroy that habitat.
“So if you know you have Sage Sparrows in the scrub in your backyard, before you go out and chop all that sage in your backyard you might say, ‘Oh, maybe I will disturb the Sage Sparrows’ habitat’,” she said.
Feener believes people who participate will learn a lot about birds and then will enjoy the beauty of the birds. She said by getting new people involved it will help keep our valley and the surrounding area beautiful.
“For scientists, it lets them know how the birds are doing in the wintertime. It helps them answer questions like, ‘Are there large numbers of birds? Has the drought affected them? And has the count gone down in areas?’
“During a bird count you may see many pretty ones. I have yet to see a rare bird or a highly unusual one on a bird count. For some reason, an unusual bird is rare because of the time of month it is and because it is cold.
“A lot of our rare bird sightings are during a different time of year. We do get some Peregrine Falcons on the count and they are fun, but normally, Backyard Bird Counts tend to be backyard birds,” concluded Feener.
The West Branch of the Red Rock Audubon Society will hold several events during the four day counting period:
• Feb. 15 from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. we will count a section of Willow Creek Golf Course near the double ponds, meet at the end of Daytona Street.
• Feb. 16 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. we will be “car counting”. This is a fun and easy count especially for people who cannot walk much. Meet at the Pahrump Nugget sign at 8 a.m.
• Feb. 17 from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. we will count Mountain Falls. Meet at the Mountain Falls Grill Room.
• Feb. 18 we hope people will count birds in their neighborhoods. Report only birds you can identify. If people need help with the checklist email Darlene at email@example.com or Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have no computer, call Carol at 775-727-0645.