The 117th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count is underway across the nation. In Delta County, the Black Canyon Audubon Society will host its annual Christmas Bird Count in Hotchkiss on Saturday, Jan. 1. The count provides population data on the nation's more than 10,000 species of birds.
The Hotchkiss count has been held annually for about 50 years, said Jason Beason with the BCAS. The count covers a 7.5-mile area common to raptors including golden and bald eagles and red tail hawks.
A couple of species in the North Fork area whose sightings during the count have declined in recent years include rough-legged hawks and the ferruginous hawks, which Beason noted is named for its iron-red, rust-like color. It is larger than a red tail and its underside when flying appears "super white," even in the tail, said Beason. Its mouth also extends across its face to underneath its eyes.
Bird counts occasionally result in rare sightings, said Beason. Last weekend a birder in Summit County recorded a purple sandpiper on Dillon Reservoir. It's the first known sighting of the species in Colorado and is significant in another way, said Beason. If it's confirmed, it will be the 500th bird species identified in the state. (For a list of the other 499 species, visit coloradobirdre
Participants should meet at 8 a.m. in the Hotchkiss City Market parking lot, where they will break into groups. In order to keep the number of vehicles to a minimum, participants are asked to carpool where possible.
The BCAS has already held this year's bird counts in Montrose and Gunnison, with the Delta count scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 31. For those unable to make the trip who are interested in contributing to the count, BCAS also accepts data from birdwatchers, as long as information was gathered within three days of the official count date.
Participants don't need to be BCAS members to participate. They are asked to dress appropriately. Those planning to attend the entire count should bring a lunch and something to drink. Binoculars are also recommended. While reserving a spot on the trip isn't necessary, BCAS would like to have an idea of how many plan to attend by calling 970-310-5117 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.