Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Annual bird count set for Saturday


Climate change could be the culprit causing peculiar bird species to turn up in the valley this winter. Saturday’s annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count in Haines and Mosquito Lake will help determine what winged wildlife is weathering the latest Southeast Alaska winter.

“There are the usual suspects, but there is always a possibility of surprises,” said Pam Randles of Takshanuk Watershed Council.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, that historically don’t winter past northern British Columbia, Canada, were spotted in Haines before the last snowstorm.

“Why is a hummingbird here in December?” Randles asked.

Although a few swans are common here, 52 were recently counted together near the steel bridge at 26 Mile Haines Highway.

Of about 230 year-round species, only about 40 – including ravens, crows, chickadees and redpoll finches - are commonly observed near Haines and Mosquito Lake in winter. 

Eurasian collared doves started coming to Haines seasonally in 2007, but are now here year-round, possibly due to warming temperatures.

It’s easy to underestimate the environmental challenges that birds can handle, Randles said, such as low temperatures and scarce food availability.

Randles said other oddball birds could be blown in by high winds or get lost during migration.

Volunteers have 24 hours beginning Dec. 17 to record as many birds as possible within a 15-mile diameter circle around Haines townsite and Mosquito Lake.

This will be the 18th year of a Christmas count in Haines. Last year there were 37 counts held across Alaska.

Now, there are Christmas bird counts in all 50 states, in all Canadian provinces, several Central and South American countries and several Pacific and Caribbean islands, according to Audubon’s website.

Randles said everyone – regardless of skill level - is welcome to participate. People can hike, bike, walk, ski or drive, or even just observe bird feeders from a window. Twenty-six people are currently signed up.

“It’s fun to get out and just have a nice day,” Randles said. Less experienced birders can be paired with someone more experienced. She suggested bringing a bird identification book or app to look up species that may not be easily identified.

Visit Alaska Backcountry Outfitter to register.


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