Fifty bird species counted in tally |

Fifty bird species counted in tally

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Fourteen South Lake Tahoe birders braved the wind and snow last week to count 1,743 of their feathered friends for the National Audubon Society’s Christmas bird count.

The annual Northern American census in ornithology runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5.

Lake Tahoe’s count was stalled for a few years, but South Shore observers wearing boots, cross country skis and snowshoes resumed the count Dec. 22 throughout a 128-mile stretch from Christmas Valley to Taylor Creek.

They spotted 50 species, including bald eagles, the northern shrike, Bonaparte’s gull, black-crowned night heron and northern saw-whet owl, organizer Chris Tenney reported.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen an owl in the daytime,” said Bob Sowers, a 27-year resident who spotted the owl in the Barton Meadow.

Sowers also was pleased to see gold finches at the end of Lakeview Avenue.

Despite the notable finds, blizzard-like conditions dampened the count.

“The birds are pretty smart. They’re going to leave or find cover when the weather is like this,” birder Gordon Shirts said. “But it’s not the worst we’ve had.”

In 2001, the Christmas Bird Count tallies show 4.8 million birds spotted by more than 50,000 volunteers dedicated to the 102-year-old database. Counts take place in all 50 U.S. states, all Canadian provinces, parts of Central and South americas, Bermuda, the West Indies and Pacific islands. Each group covers a designated geographic circle that is 15 miles in diameter.

Volunteers turn the results over to a compiler, who in turn, submits the data on-line to the club by the end of the three-week period.

The Lahontan Audubon club chapter, based in Reno, recorded 88 species and more than 8,000 birds south of Jacks Valley.

The tradition started as a protest on Christmas Day 1900. A group of conservationists led by ornithologist Frank Chapman formed an organized bird-watching event as an alternative to the “side hunt,” when teams on two opposing sides competed to see who could shoot the most birds.

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