Terri Rust uses a pair of binoculars to spot bird species in the Almanor Basin as part of Plumas Audubon Society’s early-winter bird census program. Photo by Darrel Jury

Plumas Audubon sponsors citizen science project this Monday

Bewick’s wren is just one of the dozens of species of birds that can be found around Lake Almanor and surrounding areas. Photo courtesy Plumas Audubon Society

The Plumas Audubon Society invites Chester residents to participate in the early-winter bird census Monday, Dec. 18, as part of the organization’s Christmas Bird Count, designed to assess the health of bird populations in and around the Lake Almanor Basin.

Ryan Burnett, a professional ornithologist and Sierra Nevada director for Point Blue Conservation Science, is the volunteer coordinator conducting the census, and lives and works in the Almanor Basin.

The Audubon Society needs community volunteers who wish to participate in this important endeavor, which it has been promoting since the program was first established over 40 years ago.

The bird count is the country’s longest running citizen science project in which the public collects scientific data, creating data sets that provide information on bird species that are making their winter homes in the Lake Almanor Basin area.

The organization conducts the bird count every year as one of a number of important components of its mission to monitor the health of bird populations.

Volunteers will meet at 7 a.m. at Holiday Market, 271 Main St., in Chester, and should expect to return around 4:30 p.m., said Burnett. He added that participants can choose to work just half the day beginning in the morning if they prefer.

He recommended that people be prepared for their trek with winter clothing, as well as winter boots or snowshoes if they have them, because of possible snow conditions on the ground. Warm knitted caps and gloves are also helpful against what is likely to be a cold winter morning.

In case of rain, Burnett suggested umbrellas be brought along too, just to be on the safe side.

Specified routes are assigned to groups led by experienced birdwatchers within a 7.5-mile radius centered on the USFS Almanor Ranger Station.

Burnett said people of all ages, both experienced and novice, are welcome to participate in the activity. Individuals mostly will be hiking and observing in the forested areas along the lakeshore.

Assigned areas include the Chester Meadow and west shore of Lake Almanor. Another location will be near the Chester sewage ponds, while another group will be stationed on the Almanor Peninsula by Prattville, and also across the causeway east of Chester that follows the shoreline.

The Plumas Audubon Society needs community volunteers who would like to participate in the bird count census program, designed to assess the health of bird populations in and around the Lake Almanor Basin. Photo courtesy Plumas Audubon Society

Along with data sheets, Burnett said maps and directions are provided, plus detailed instructions on how to fill out the data sheets will be given.

This time of year, Burnett said people should expect to see a huge diversity of water birds in the lake.

It’s imperative that volunteers bring along a pair of binoculars, plus a camera, food and water. Burnett said he could provide binoculars to people who don’t have their own, but mentioned he has just a couple to loan out.

Filled-out data sheets on spotted birds are turned in at the end of the day to Burnett and later entered on the Audubon website.

The data is used to help compile detailed information that’s used by the Audubon Society and other research organizations to generate analyses on bird migration, Burnett explained, and for conservation purposes and management of birds in North America.

It’s a great way to track long-term changes in migration, he added.

At the end of the excursion, everyone is invited to meet up at Burnett’s house in Hamilton Branch for pizza and drinks and to share stories of their experiences in the wild.

For people interested in participating in the bird count, call Ryan Burnett at 258-2869, or email him at: [email protected]. It’s a good idea to RSVP by email first, so he can send out updates on the weather conditions.

Burnett said he anticipates an invigorating experience for everyone involved. “It’s a great opportunity to get outside in the winter and participate in an important cause.”

The Plumas Audubon Society, located at 429 Main St., Quincy, has a website plumasaudubon.org. For more information, call 592-0672.