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New Year's Day Bird Count in Joshua Tree National Park

Gambel's Quail is a common sight - these chicks walked through my front yard!
Gambel's Quail is a common sight - these chicks walked through my front yard!
Mark Edward Hornish

Occasionally an event takes place that reminds us just how far we've come as a species. The annual Audubon Society North American Bird Count is just such an event. Joshua Tree National Park will hold this year’s annual Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, January 1, 2010.

Once upon a time, it was tradition, right here in the good old USA, as well as most of Europe, to go "shooting" on New Year's Day.  Supposedly only "game" birds were targeted, but the reality is that anything with wings had a very bad day.  The Bird Count was started in 1901 when legendary natural scientist Frank Chapman implored readers of the journal Bird-Lore to count birds during the Holidays, rather than shoot them.  Over 100 years later, the Christmas Bird Count is now the largest bird survey conducted in the world, and the ultimate source of data about winter bird populations.

Begun in 1967, the Joshua Tree Christmas Bird Count is now in its 43nd year, making it the park’s longest ongoing wildlife survey. Last year, 50 species were recorded on the Joshua Tree count.  Birdwatchers will canvas a 15-mile diameter count circle from dawn to dusk in an effort to record each species and individual bird.

All interested birdwatchers are invited to participate in the Joshua Tree count. The count will begin at 7:00 am. Counters can meet at one of two locations: the Indian Cove Ranger Station on Indian Cove Road in west Twentynine Palms, or at the park’s West Entrance Station located on Quail Springs Boulevard in the town of Joshua Tree. Count participants should bring transportation, warm clothing, binoculars, food, and water. The count will conclude at 5:00 p.m. Count participants should plan on spending the entire day in the field. Some routes may involve considerable walking or hiking. Prior bird watching experience is desirable, but not required. The Audubon Society requires a $5 fee from all participants, payable to the count compiler, for administration of the count.

For more info on this year’s Joshua Tree Christmas Bird Count, contact Joe Zarki at (760)367-5520, or Pat Pilcher at (760)367-5523.