Birders looking for unusual visitors at annual count

Thousands of volunteers across the country who dub themselves the Binocular Brigade are gearing up for Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count.

And hopes are high that they’ll see more birds from the north spotted in strange places. The count runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5.

People are already starting to see snowy owls including one that was spotted last night on the roof of Everett High School.

The two-foot-tall, all-white birds have been seen all over the lower 48. Five owls near Kansas City, Mo., created a traffic jam when thousands of people came to see them.

Audubon experts are already seeing species well outside their normal range and in unusual numbers: Red-breasted nuthatches have been reported in Mississippi by the Pascagoula Audubon Center; evening grosbeaks are drifting farther south and could move as far south as the Carolinas and Georgia.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science wildlife survey in the world. The count is expected to undergo several significant changes this year, as Audubon builds on the program’s success to entice birdwatchers to lend their eyes and ears year round. Fees to participate in the count will be dropped to encourage greater participation, and the annual published report, American Birds, will go digital in 2013. Christmas Bird Count information will be available online in Spanish for the first time.

And in 2013, Audubon will begin to extend conservation-focused observation efforts throughout the seasons.

To find a count near you, go to

Have you seen a snow owl?

Herald photographer Mark Mulligan would like to take more photos of the snowy owls as they show up in our area. If you see any, you can give him a call at 425-339-3462.

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