The California scrub jay. (Audubon.org)

The California scrub jay. (Audubon.org)

Volunteers needed to spend New Year’s with the birds

The Pilchuck Audubon Society is looking for feeder-watchers to help add to decades of data this Saturday.

EVERETT — Calling all bird nerds.

The Pilchuck Audubon Society is looking for backyard birders to lend a hand counting feathered friends on Saturday, New Year’s Day.

As part of the 122nd annual Christmas Bird Count, volunteers in the Everett area will spend the day tallying birds and contributing to decades of data about species across the Western Hemisphere.

The Everett-Marysville count covers a circular area where participants traditionally haul binoculars on foot, bike and boat. But with a few days left before the 24-hour event, organizer Scott Atkinson is looking for locals willing to stay put and keep their eyes on the feeders, watching for “passerines,” or small, perching birds.

“Frankly, year in and year out, my theory is that they get undercounted,” Atkinson said Monday.

Chickadees, wrens, kinglets and sparrows are often hunkering down in large tracts of forest, he said, making them harder to spot. Feeders bring them out into the daylight.

The frigid weather may force even more of those birds to feeders as they stock up on energy to survive the low temperatures. Meanwhile, volunteers can stay warm, making their observations through windows.

“So it’s a good time to be a feeder-watcher for more than one reason,” Atkinson said.

Those living within the count’s boundaries who are interested in spending New Years Day with the birds can call, text or email Atkinson at 425-210-2716 or scottratkinson@hotmail.com.

No experience is required, and first-timers will be supplied a “cheat sheet” of birds they can expect to pass through, along with instructions on how to document their findings.

The Christmas Bird Count has roots in the late-1800s, back when the popular holiday tradition involved hunting — not counting — hordes of birds. Bird-lovers flipped the annual event on its head. Nowadays, the counts happen in more than 20 countries, tracking over 2,400 species and informing conservation efforts.

The Everett-Marysville count usually turns up around 133 types of birds. In 2019, that was the second-highest in Washington. That means plenty of species to track. But this year, Atkinson has his eye on “new arrivals.” Anna’s hummingbirds, for example, have been creeping further north due to warming temperatures and a growing interest in hummingbird feeders.

California scrub jays, with their cobalt-blue feathers and rowdy screeches, have also been making a new home in Washington. What used to be a Northwest outsider is now nesting in Marysville.

“Ninety-nine percent of what you run into year to year is expected,” Atkinson said. “And yet there’s that 1% that’s the unexpected. And therein lies the excitement for a lot of us.”

Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449; claudia.yaw@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @yawclaudia.

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