Carefree Christmas bird counters to scour Desert Foothills this Friday

By Curtis Riggs | December 31, 2008

Hope to see another American Redstart

CAREFREE – Bird watchers will spread out over the Desert Foothills region north of town on Friday, Jan. 2 to participate in the annual Carefree Christmas bird count.

The count is conducted within a 15-mile circle, the center of which is located three miles north of SkyRanch Airport. The search area is divided into 10 sections. A section leader along with six to eight other watchers look for typical or rare birds in designated sections.

Some members of the field parties begin listening for owls before dawn. The rest of the bird watchers begin counting at daybreak.

“We spend most of the day covering riparian areas, golf course ponds and other areas where birds concentrate. In addition we have a dozen or so people who monitor their bird feeders and report their results to us,” bird count organizer Walter Thurber said. The Carefree bird count is done in conjunction with other counts nationwide, coordinated through the efforts of the National Audubon Society.

“Every species and individual bird counts and we do our best to avoid double counting,” said Thurber, who adds there are some openings for newcomer volunteers who want to participate in the counting.

Area leaders record the number of species sighted on a display board at a dinner at the end of the Friday counting. This year the dinner will take place at El Encanto.

Typically counters spot just over 100 species of birds on count days. (The record number of species spotted is 107.)

“The individual bird totals are determined after all of the field and feeder reports come in,” Thurber said. “The individual reports vary widely, depending it seems on the natural food crop and the weather on count day.”

Last year participants in the Carefree count tallied 105 species and 8,866 individual birds.

There is some excitement among the counters about the American Redstart, which was spotted at the Jewel of the Creek nature preserve this fall.

“This species is a rare to uncommon migrant across the Southwest,” Thurber said. There were no other reported local sightings of the species. “We will be watching closely when we visit the Jewel of the Creek on count day.”

Courtesy Photo/Mike Rigney
Many volunteers in Friday’s Carefree Christmas bird count will be watching closely to see an American Redstart. The bird is typically found in the northern United States and on the East Coast. One was spotted at the Jewel of the Creek this fall.