Snohomish County bird watchers prepare for Christmas Bird Count –

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MARYSVILLE, Wash. — Bird watchers in Snohomish County are preparing to ring in the new year with a new census aimed at counting our local wild bird population.  
The National Audubon Society administers the tradition that dates back to 1900 when an ornithologist proposed a new holiday tradition that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them. The Christmas Bird Count is now the longest running community science survey in North America. 
Scott Atkinson with the Pilchuck Audubon Society has been organizing the Everett/ Marysville Christmas Bird Count for more than 20 years and said the “science sport” is an important indication of the local eco system.  
“From land use change to weather patterns shifting, so it’s an important census of all the wild birds within a 15-mile circle,” Atkinson said. 
The circle is divided into sections which are surveyed by teams of volunteers to identify and count all of the wild birds.  Atkinson said his favorite part is that the diversity of the birds is rubbing off on the bird watchers.  
“We have volunteers from every walk of life,” Atkinson said. “Even folks with limited mobility can help by watching feeders from home.”  
Atkinson said a record group of volunteers stepped up in 2021. This year, he’s excited to work with hikers, bikers, kayakers and even a small ferry boat that services Hat Island to track and count as many bird species as they can on New Year’s Eve. 
The Pilchuck Audubon Society has been sponsoring the Christmas Bird Count since 1974 and is one of more than 2,600 Christmas Bird Count circles across the country and beyond. 
Atkinson works in the marine industry in Seattle and said bird watching is facing a similar dilemma in 2023.  
“Lots of boomers are aging out or retiring and we are anxious to get more young people involved with this work,” Atkinson said. 
Atkinson said the hunt is typically 99% predictable, but every now and again an exciting discovery is made. A snowy owl surprised onlookers a few years back and Atkinson said it just takes one person to hear or see something remarkable.
The official Christmas Bird Count kicks off in the Everett/Marysville circle at 12:01 a.m. on December 31 and closes at 12:59 p.m. 
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