Backyard bird count unites bird watchers

Benna Sayyed

Don Hicks hopes to connect with other area birdwatchers when the 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count commences Friday.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an event that calls on birdwatchers from across the U.S. and Canada to make an official count of the of birds in North America.

“I bet there are some folks out there who might find birdwatching interesting,” said Hicks, a retired math instructor and amateur bird watcher in Clovis.

“If you have an interest it is a lot of fun. There’s a lot to learn. If you have an interest go for it.”

During the bird count, which runs Friday through Monday, participants count birds in a locale for at least 15 minutes during one or more days of the event. Tallies are entered at birdcount.org.

In 2011 more than 92,000 checklists with more than 11 million bird observations were submitted by participants from across North America, according to a news release from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

According to the news release, this data can illustrate yearly changes in bird populations across the continent. Birdcount.org indicates 31 bird species were spotted in Clovis during the 2011 bird count. Hicks said he has seen about 70 species of birds in the area. He said there are about 107 species of birds visible in Curry County in February.

According to Zach Jones, associate professor of biology at Eastern New Mexico University, the Great Backyard Bird Count has received much attention in recent years as the most popular bird count among the general population.

“As a group, birds are highly visible and highly mobile,” Jones said. “If there is a change in the environment that influences them, there could be a change in the environment that influences us.”

Hicks said he has been watching birds for at least 20 years and has participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count for 12 years. He bird watches in Curry and De Baca counties and occasionally Oasis State Park.

“I’ve always admired birds as one of the creatures that just have total freedom of movement,” Hicks said.

“They can walk, they can swim, they can fly,” Hicks said.

“I’ve had a fascination with birds more than any other kind of animal and just developed a desire to learn as much as I could in my spare time.”