San Diego Citizen Scientists Rally for Annual Christmas Bird Count


Holidays aside, it’s the most wonderful time of year for San Diego’s most dedicated and self-proclaimed bird nerds.

On Saturday morning, 140 of them deployed in birding groups from Point Loma Point to South Bay and east to Bonita to comprehensively document the area’s bird population. .

Their wildlife adventures, orchestrated locally by the San Diego Audubon Society, are part of what’s known as the Christmas Bird Count. The National Science Project is in its 122nd year and spans three weeks in December and January. The project asks professional bird watchers and bird watchers to compile a time count of every bird they can find in their community.

Regional data is validated by a local expert, entered into the eBird digital platform and then analyzed by researchers at Cornell University.

“The data then informs policies and paints a picture of the situation of our bird population across the county in different regions,” said Travis Kemnitz, executive director of the San Diego chapter of the National Audubon Society. “The general public will likely see a lot of people with cameras and binoculars, and… have no idea that there is this huge scientific effort going on.”

The local chapter focuses specifically on a circle 15 miles in diameter, centered on the Sweetwater River in Chula Vista. The circle stretches south to the Tijuana River Valley, north to Balboa Park, east to Sweetwater Reservoir and west 6 miles offshore.

Justyn Stahl, who serves as the Christmas Bird Count compiler for San Diego, met with some of the volunteers at Chula Vista Marina View Park to collect data on their efforts to spot bird varieties.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

So far, this year’s tally has revealed 207 different species, said Justyn Stahl, 41, a North Park resident and wildlife biologist who coordinates the event. Stahl, who is responsible for compiling the local data, said the preliminary total would increase as teams work to find missing species. San Diego’s Christmas Bird Count last year documented 220 species, which was the second most diverse count of more than 2,400 recorded in the Western Hemisphere, the nonprofit said.

It is noteworthy that this year a non-native species has resurfaced in a new location, Stahl said.

“The white eye of the Swinhoe is an East Asian bird that was introduced to Los Angeles and Orange County, possibly by accident,” he said. “Last year, for the first time, someone recorded four at Kimball Park in National City. This year they were there and in Coronado for the first time. “

The investigation extends into the waters off the coast of San Diego, where teams have spotted an abundance of scotter sea ducks and black brent geese, as is often the case. However, one species of water bird was noticeably absent during Lesley Handa’s 3.5-hour visit to the South Bay. The experienced part-time ornithologist, who works as a geographer at Camp Pendleton, is the area chief for the San Diego Bay section of the Christmas Bird Count.

At 7 a.m., the 42-year-old East County resident set off in a small boat from Pepper Park to National City, traveled south to the salt pans in South Bay, and circled the bay, covering the water region south of San Diego. Coronado Bay Bridge. In total, it counted 2,956 birds and 24 species.

“One of the bird species that I didn’t see … was the red duck. They only occur in certain areas of San Diego County, and the San Diego Bay is one of the areas they love, ”said Handa, who is also a member of the San Diego Audubon board of directors. Society and has been participating in the count since 2011.

The duck has, however, been spotted by a different group elsewhere, a testament to the importance of all of the Citizen Scientists who show up each year.

Christmas bird counts in central and southern San Diego County ended on Saturday, but data compilation continues elsewhere with birders trekking around Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Sunday and Henshaw Lake on Monday. Bird counts are also scheduled for Oceanside, Rancho Santa Fe and Escondido between December 26 and January 2.


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