LAKE HAVASU CITY - A good Christmas gift for birding enthusiasts is wrapped in feathers.
Such was the case at the annual Christmas Bird Count, where 33 birding enthusiast volunteers spotted 120 different species and 14,110 total birds during the count in and around the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.
The count was substantially lower than the 43,792 birds (121 species) 36 volunteers counted in 2009, but higher than the 10,954 and 112 species documented in 2008.
The discrepancy lies with the American coot. More than 27,000 of this waterfowl species were counted in 2009, compared to 3,697 in 2010, and three fewer volunteers could have also played a factor.
"I wouldn't read too much into the overall numbers," said Jeff Pebworth, wildlife program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Kingman regional office.
"The number of species documented is more valuable. The overall numbers can be influenced by weather, migration patterns and data collection techniques. And, they counted virtually the same number of species as in 2009."
DeeDee DeLorenzo, the event coordinator for the Audubon Society, credits the success of the annual count to the volunteers. While they had three fewer than in 2009, it was still higher than the 28 in 2008.
"We had great participation again this year," DeLorenzo said. "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 most common sighting during the Dec. 28 count was the snow goose, with a count of 4,685 individuals, followed by the American coot with 3,697. Some other common sightings included the red-winged blackbird at 624, the rock pigeon at 469, the yellow-rumped warbler at 319, and the great-tailed grackle at 297.
In addition, two juvenile bald eagles were spotted and eight species never before documented at this effort: solitary sandpiper, neotropic cormorant, gray flycatcher, Tennessee warbler, Lucy's warbler, black-throated gray warbler, cackling goose and lark sparrow.
"It was also a good year for raptors," DeLorenzo said. "We saw quite a few species this year, including a red-shouldered hawk."
Participants paid a $5 fee to help offset the cost of publishing the results and maintaining the Christmas Bird Count website: 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 more information on these events, contact DeLorenzo at (928) 758-2707 for information regarding the backyard bird count later this year.
For birding enthusiasts, visit www.birdyverde.org for information regarding the April Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival in Cottonwood.
For anyone interested in information regarding the 2010 Havasu CBC, contact DeLorenzo at the number above or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.