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RMBO’s Christmas Count brings out eagle-eyed

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — About 75 kids and parents ventured to the old stone house near Barr Lake for the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory’s second annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids.

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Community Education Coordinator Tyler Edmondson said the day was phenomenal and far exceeded his expectations. 

 

“The fact that it (the turnout) was four times the number of last year was just amazing,” he said. “And you can’t plan for the weather but it was second to none.”

Young birdwatchers ages 7 to 14 split into groups to record the number and speceies of birds they saw around Barr Lake, while budding birders ages 3 to 6 made crafts and learned about birds indoors.

Following the count, the young bird watchers returned to the old stone house to report their findings. Edmondson said it was “an amazing day of geese and raptors,” as every group saw thousands of geese. He also said between all of the groups, more than 20 bald eagles were counted.

“Everybody had just gotten back to the old stone house and while we were sitting right behind the old stone house eating lunch, a red-tailed hawk just flew in the tree immediately above us — 20 feet above our heads — and sat there throughout the entire lunch. That was just the icing on the cake,” he said. 

Participants also got to see a live red-tailed hawk and Gyrfalcon up close. Edmondson said it was a cool way to recap the count with a bird most of the kids saw during the day and for the kids to learn how raptors are adapted to survive in the cold winter conditions.

The Christmas Bird Count was started by the National Audubon Society in 1900, and the Christmas Bird Count for Kids was started as a national event in 2007. Edmonson said RMBO became a partner site to offer the count last year to encourage the next generation of birdwatchers.

“It also is something that continues to engage a lot of our participants and families that we work with as home schools or during the summer as summer campers; continue to engage them year round,” he said.

Edmondson said the birdwatchers participated in citizen science and that the data collected from the count will be added to eBird, a website and worldwide database of birds. He said the data helps experts learn whats happening to bird populations and that citizen science has proven to be successful. 

According to Edmondson, RMBO is excited the second year of the count was so successful and that they will continue to offer the program in the future. He said they would have had 100 people at the event but, unfortunately, had to turn away people a few days prior to the event because they did not have enough space.  

“I think for subsequent years we’re going to reconsider where we initially set things up and we’ll look into some different venues,” he said. “We want to stay close to Barr Lake but we definitely need to expand it so we can have more groups out there and more kids.”