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Christmas bird counts at area refuges

Des Lacs, Upper Souris and J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge will participate in the 120th annual Christmas Bird Count by hosting counts centered on each refuge headquarters.

Each count will start at 8 a.m. The dates are: Dec. 17 at J. Clark NWR, Dec. 19 at Des Lacs NWR and Dec. 27 at Upper Souris NWR.

The annual Christmas Bird Count organized by the National Audubon Society is the longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count is the oldest and largest citizen science project in the world. It covers more miles than any other count and it counts more species than any other project.

Locally, the Des Lacs Christmas Bird Count has a long tradition dating back to the 1930s, with Upper Souris and J. Clark refuge counts having documentation dating to 1954.

Everyone is welcome to participate, as the counts are open to birders of all skill levels and is free of charge. Participants should plan to arrive by 8 a.m. at respective refuge headquarters.

Typically, new or novice birders team up with more experienced birders to learn new birds and share in the fun. The routes are searched by vehicle and on foot, depending on weather and choice of the participant.

Suggested items to bring include binoculars, bird field guide, warm clothing, boots, a car or truck with a full tank of gas, snacks and beverages for the day. Binoculars are available for loan and a potluck lunch will be served at noon for participants at each count headquarters.

For questions or more information about the Upper Souris Bird Count, contact refuge staff at 468-5467; the Des Lacs count contact Laurie Richardson at 629-9928; the J. Clark count contact Johannah McCollum at 768-2548 ext. 122.

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