February for the birds: Area enthusiasts participate in annual count

A dark-eyed Junco, top, and a Chickadee perch on a bird feeder on the Carolyn and LeRoy Semin’s ranch in KIlgore. The two were among the species count and recorded by the couple during their participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count last week.

Carolyn and LeRoy Semin’s ranch in Kilgore appears to be a must-visit destination for American goldfinches.

Forty-seven of the birds were spotted and counted by the couple over the past week as they participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count, which has become a global program.

“We have goldfinches all year round and they’re just beautiful,” Carolyn said. “Right now they are just starting to turning yellow.”

During the bird count, volunteers spend about 15 minutes a day over a four-day period in which they identify and count the birds in a location of their choice. The program this year ran from Friday through this Monday.

The Semins tracked the birds at about 7 a.m. Mountain time on the three days they participated — Friday, Saturday and Monday — and they spotted nine species through the course of the program.

The American tree sparrow was the second-most sighted bird over the four days with a count of 32. The dark-eyed junco was third with 24 counted, followed by the great horned owl with five sightings over the three days.

The list also included common starlings and chickadees along with a downy woodpecker and a red-tailed hawk.

The Semins entered their findings online at birdcount.org, the website for the Great Backyard Bird Count, which has been conducted for 23 years by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The Semins have been longtime bird watchers, but this was the first year that they have been involved with the program.

Carolyn said they participated through the encouragement of a friend, and they plan to continue.

“I think it’s an extremely good program and the guy who asked me, I told him, ‘Please tell me next year when this goes on.’ I’m definitely planning on (participating).”

What birds were the most frequently observed by participants in Nebraska over the past week? That would be snow geese and Canada geese, with counts of 25,000 and 20,000, respectively.

A total of 109 species were spotted across the state over the four-day count. Twenty-eight species were spotted in Lincoln County.

Cherry County reported 27 species in the bird count — which included the information from the Semins.

One highlight was five trumpeter swans at Valentine Mill Pond on Friday. James Ducey noted in his report that the three adult and two juvenile swans marked the largest known count for the site based on past records.

Ducey also noted that the 20 pheasants seen in the Valentine Lake District were unusual compared with past records.

In The Telegraph’s coverage area, Keith County reported the most species — 29 — in this year’s count.

The bird count has been an annual event since 1998. The first year generated 13,500 checklists from bird watchers in North America.

That involvement grew to more than 100 countries participating in 2019, according to a Great Backyard Bird Count media release. That resulted in more than 210,000 checklists that reported 6,810 species.

A total of 217,612 checklists were reported in this year’s count, with 6,619 species observed and more than 35.2 million individual birds counted.

Those numbers could continue to climb, as participants have until March 1 to enter results.

Information gathered through the Great Backyard Bird Count — along with observations made through the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch and eBird — is used to track how climate change influences bird populations.

“I’ve been reading about the numbers of the birds going down — the different kind of birds — and that’s a concern,” Carolyn said. “We need our birds.”

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