Birders and nature enthusiasts in the San Luis Valley will join birders across the western hemisphere to participate in Audubon’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), held at Great Sand Dunes National Park on Saturday, December 31st. Birders of all skill levels are welcome to participate. The park is also looking for those within the count circle who have bird feeders to join in the fun, as well.

To participate, meet at the Great Sand Dunes visitor center Conference Room (about ½ mile past the entrance station) by 9 am. Bring binoculars, cameras, warm clothing, food, water, and bird books, if possible. Snowshoes may come in handy, as well. Hot drinks and snacks will be provided by the Friends of the Dunes beginning at 8:30 am.

Participation in the CBC is free, and the park will waive the entrance fee for CBC participants on the day of the count. Participants may register online at http://netapp.audubon.org/cbc/public/, or contact Dewane Mosher at 719-378-6363 or dewane_mosher@nps.gov. A map of the count circle and a winter bird checklist are available by contacting Dewane at the number and email above.

The longest running citizen science survey in the world, Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count takes place nationwide in late December each year. Tens of thousands of volunteers throughout North America brave winter weather to add a new layer to over a century of data.

The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the “side hunt,” a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, it was proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort – and a more than century-old institution. The CBC is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere, and the data, which are 100% volunteer generated, have become a crucial part of the U.S. Government’s natural history monitoring database.

Please go to the Audubon website for additional information, news, and history on the Christmas Bird Count: http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.