Jon Austria/The Daily Timeson Saturday.
Jon Austria/The Daily Times on Saturday.
FARMINGTON — Every year, volunteers across the country gather to take part in one of the largest citizen-science events: the Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.

This year the Four Corners area will be having four bird counts. The first one will be in Farmington on Saturday. Durango will be holding a count on Sunday and Chaco Canyon's count will be Monday.

The Audubon Society, a group dedicated to the preservation of wildlife, began the bird count 135 years ago.

The society was named for wildlife painter John James Audubon. Donna Thatcher, the Riverside Nature Center education specialist, said he was chosen as the namesake partially because his paintings are the most detailed account available of now-extinct birds such as the passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet.

The first Farmington count was 35 years ago. Now the Four Corners Bird Club participates annually.

Thatcher said participants will divide into groups of two to three people and survey different areas 15-miles in diameter centered on Riverside Nature Center area. The volunteers will then count every bird they see. The same area is surveyed each year in order to ensure the data gathered is comparable to the previous year's data.

The data is put in a database which is used by scientists across the country, Thatcher said. For instance, if a climate scientist was wanting to see how bird populations were changing in a given area, the scientist would consult data gathered during the Christmas Bird Count.


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"This is a volunteer project where citizens across the country have been participating to gather statistics," Thatcher said.

There aren't many opportunities that provide everyday people a chance to participate in major scientific research, Thatcher said.

One of the major changes Thatcher and other birders have noticed in the Farmington area in recent years is a decline in mountain chickadees. She said the small bird used to be very common during the winter.

Thatcher said the chickadees summer in the surrounding mountains. She speculates the recent wildfires have destroyed some of the chickadee's nesting habitat.

Another change Thatcher said she and other birders have noticed is an increase in Eurasian collared doves.

Thatcher said the light tan dove with a little black line on its neck was introduced into Florida and has expanded its range. A few years ago, there were none in Farmington, but now there are quite a few. She said it will be interesting to see how many of the doves are counted this year.

Farmington: Meet at the Riverside Nature Center at 8:30 a.m. Participants pay a small fee.

Durango: Meet at Santa Rita park at 7:45 a.m. A $5 donation for the Audubon Society is required for non-members.

Chaco Canyon: Meet at visitor's center at 9 a.m. Those interested in carpooling, call 505-599-1422.

What to Bring: Binoculars, lunch, water and warm clothes suitable for hiking. Leave pets behind.

For more information call 505-599-1422