Volunteers needed to spend the New Year with the birds

EVERETT – Calling all bird enthusiasts.

The Pilchuck Audubon Society is looking for bird watchers to help count Feathered Friends on Saturday, New Year’s Day.

As part of the 122nd Annual Christmas Bird Count, volunteers from the Everett area will spend the day counting birds and contributing to decades of data on Western Hemisphere species.

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

“Frankly, year after year my theory is that they are underestimated,” Atkinson said Monday.

Chickadees, wren, wrens and sparrows often crouch in large areas of forest, he said, making them harder to spot. The feeders bring them to the light of day.

Frigid weather can force even more of these birds to feed as they source energy to survive low temperatures. During this time, volunteers can stay warm by observing through the windows.

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

Those who live within the county limits and want to spend New Years Day with the birds can call, text or email Atkinson at 425-210-2716 or [email protected]

No experience is required, and beginners will receive a “cheat sheet” of birds they can expect to cross, along with instructions on how to document their findings.

The Christmas bird census dates back to the late 1800s, when popular holiday tradition involved hunting – without counting – hordes of birds. Bird lovers have turned the annual event upside down. Today, counts are taking place in more than 20 countries, tracking more than 2,400 species and informing conservation efforts.

The Everett-Marysville tally typically reveals about 133 types of birds. In 2019, it was the second highest in Washington. That means a lot of cash to follow. But this year, Atkinson is eyeing the “newcomers”. Anna’s hummingbirds, for example, crawled further north due to warming temperatures and growing interest in hummingbird feeders.

California jays, with their cobalt blue feathers and rowdy calls, have also settled in Washington. What was once an underdog of the Northwest now nests in Marysville.

“Ninety-nine percent of what you experience year over year is expected,” Atkinson said. “And yet there is this 1% which is the unexpected. And this is where the excitement lies for many of us.

Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449; [email protected] Twitter: @yawclaudia.