KINGMAN - For birding enthusiasts participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count, the true gift was wrapped in feathers.
Thirty-six volunteers counted 43,792 birds and documented 121 species in and around the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge on Dec. 29. In 2008, 10,954 birds were counted and 112 species.
The discrepancy lies with the American coot. More than 27,000 of this waterfowl species were counted in 2009, compared to 3,261 in 2008, and the 10 additional volunteers didn't hurt. Along with Arizona, there were volunteers from Alaska, Canada, Florida, Minnesota and Indiana.
"We had great participation this year," said DeeDee DeLorenzo, event coordinator for the Audubon Society. "The more eyes we can have in the field, the more thoroughly we can canvas the refuge. It was just a wonderful effort, and I can't thank all the volunteers enough for their time.
"We can't do this without volunteers. They all did a great job of documenting the different species and keeping an accurate count of the overall numbers."
The American coot was the most visible of the birds, with a final count of 27,226. Some other common sights included 3,049 snow geese, 2,857 Red-winged blackbirds, 1,582 Northern pintail and 774 Great-tailed grackles. Several rare bird sightings included the Caspian tern and mountain bluebird.
Participants paid a $5 fee to help offset the cost of publishing the results and maintaining the Christmas Bird Count Web site: www.audubon.org/bird/cbc.
As for the purpose of the counts, DeLorenzo said it is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere.
"This effort will evaluate the status of bird species in both the breeding and non-breeding seasons," DeLorenzo said. "The Christmas Bird Count analysis will also focus on how birds may be reacting to global climate change."
For those interested in wildlife, there are some events coming up. The Wings and Wildlife Festival in Laughlin, Nev., is March 11-15, and the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival in Cottonwood is April 22-25.
For more information on these events, contact DeLorenzo at (928) 758-2707.