NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -The 54th Halstead-Newton Christmas Bird Count sponsored by Kauffman Museum at Bethel College has been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14. Counters will gather at the museum at 6:45 a.m. and spend the day in the field counting birds in a 15-mile diameter circle west of Newton. Last year 21 counters tallied 9,732 birds of 59 different species. The Harvey County count is part of an international event with counts occurring in all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific islands. The first Christmas Bird Count in 1900 involved only 27 counters and was limited to a few localities in the northeastern United States. Last year more than 55,000 volunteers took part in 1,936 counts and counted 52 million individual birds. Count results from 1900 to the present can be viewed at the National Audubon Society website at www.audubon.org/bird/cbc.
Apart from its attraction as a social, sporting and competitive event, the Christmas Bird Count reveals scientific information about the winter distribution and abundance of various bird species. One of the common wintering birds in Harvey County is the Harris' Sparrow, a bird that nests in northern Canada and spends the winter in a rather limited area in the eastern plains. Its numbers on the local bird count have remained rather stable over the years, but last year less than half of the average number of Harris' Sparrows were tallied. This year will indicate whether this wintering population is really down in Harvey County, according to Dwight Platt, compiler of the local count.
Interested persons are urged to participate in this annual event. Even persons who can't identify many birds can help a count group by spotting birds and recording some of the data, according to Platt. Counters will need a sack lunch for noon. There is a fee of $7 for participants in the count (those 18 and younger can participate free). Elementary school students are welcome on the count if accompanied by an adult.
Those interested in taking part in the count should contact Dwight Platt at (316) 283-6708 or Kauffman Museum at (316) 283-1612 before Dec. 14 to receive additional information and be assigned to one of the count groups.