122nd Annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count: Spearfish, SD

A Group Of Doves Perching In A Residents TreeSPEARFISH, S.D. – The annual Christmas Bird Count took place in Spearfish Sunday.

And just how do you count birds? “Count the legs and divide by two.”

That’s the tip Dan Bjerke has about how to count the birds in the Spearfish area with his brothers on December 2.

For forty years, Dan has been a part of the annual Christmas Bird Count by the Audubon Society, something he would not have gotten into without an early interest in studying birds he developed from his grandmother.

“My grandmother taught me how to find birds when I was just a little guy, myself and my brothers,” Spearfish Bird Count Data Compiler Dan Bjerke said. “I was always interested in birds and so they said ‘well, why don’t you come out and join us for one of the Christmas Bird Counts?’ “

The count itself started in 1900, replacing a yearly hunt to see who could gather the largest bounty of animals. Ornithologist Frank Chapman teamed up with over 25 fellow birdwatchers coast-to-coast to encourage species conservation.

The data compiled by volunteers during the count from then on helps researchers determine important factors such as migration routes and the number of birds in an area. In 2022, numbers remain a key point for Bjerke over the decades.

“There’s a bird called the Evening Grossbeak,” Bjerke explains. “When I was first involved with the bird count here, there was actually hundreds of them right around Spearfish. And all of a sudden, their population just went down dramatically. We might see just a handful of Evening Grossbeaks on our count today. It’s just a tremendous difference.”

That being said, the area they explored around Spearfish was teeming with several different species. From robins and sparrows and doves, to even larger predatory birds.

“There’s a hawk called the Rough-legged Hawk, and we saw over 20 of those today, which is probably the all-time high for this count,” he adds.” And we saw several Bald Eagles. It was just a great day for watching raptors.”

The final numbers go into a database for researchers to access across North America and parts of South America. The count started in mid-December and goes through January 5.

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