Mid-Columbians to join in bird count Saturday

Saturday is this year's bird count organized by the Lower Columbia Audubon Society.

The one day nationwide count is done by volunteers to give a 24-hour snapshot of bird populations. Mid-Columbia volunteers might get to see everything from an American bald eagle to a wayward hummingbird that has survived the winter.

"Once in while we see a rare prairie falcon or a snowy owl," said Dana Ward, one of this year's organizers.

Ward has been bird watching for decades. He said some really dedicated bird watchers might start their counts at midnight to give it an entire 24 hours.

Counting during the night gives a more varied picture of what birds are in the area, Ward said.

The National Audubon Society does the count to update its 111-year-old database on bird species and populations.

It is the largest wildlife database in the world and considered so accurate, it is used for planning purposes by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Volunteers are asked to pay a $5 donation to help with the cost of compiling the data.

Organizers hope three teams of about 60 volunteers will spread out in three areas to count birds, starting at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. One group will meet at the fingernail stage at Howard Amon Park in Richland.

The others will meet at Chiawana Park in Pasco and at the Audubon Nature Trail in Columbia Park in Kennewick.

Those planning to stay for the day should dress for the weather and bring a sack lunch and lots of water.

Ray Johnson, who will lead the Richland group, said bird counters don't need any experience. He will team together inexperienced and experienced birders.

A potluck following the count will be at 6 p.m. at the Columbia Grange, 6300 Court St. in Pasco. For more information go to www.lcbas.org or call 545-0627