Over a dozen people in the CNMI took part in the national Christmas Bird Count over the holidays, resulting in over 5,000 birds of various species being included in the count in the Marianas.
According to Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Mullin, there were 19 individuals and a group of students who took part in the Christmas Bird Count, more popularly known as the Audubon Christmas Count, last Dec. 22.
As of Jan. 4, DFW has yet to finalize the exact number of birds that were counted but Mullin estimates the number at over 5,000.
“I am still waiting for two more data sheets from people that were helping out but we’re at about 5,000 right now,” he said.
The CNMI has been conducting the bird count for over 25 years but it has been done in the United States for about 118 years.
Mullin said the count is an opportunity for the public to help scientist conserve the dozens of bird species in the Commonwealth while also learning about each of them.
Mullin, who has been with DFW for the past three years, said that even at the 5,000 mark, it is already more than the last year’s count of 4,500 and about equal to the amount counted the year before.
“That’s a pretty good number. That’s more than we had last year and very similar to the amount the year before that,” he said.
Mullin said that all the volunteers were paired with an individual from DFW who were familiar with the bird count and are familiar with the types of birds in the Marianas.
“Everyone that participated who were volunteers were teamed up with someone who knows the birds very well and, by doing that, they can help with the survey and learn about the birds at the same time,” said Mullin.
Each pair was assigned a specific place on the island so that as much ground as possible was covered during the count without confusion and double-counting in one area.
“They get an area and then they move along the area in a structured way where they’re not spending too much time in an area…it’s systematic,” he said.
Mullin said the count was as successful as it has been in previous years because there are always new groups of people who are interested in joining the count and learning about the birds in the Marianas.
“We had several volunteers come out who were not here before and they seemed to enjoy it, they learned a lot, and that is one of the main reasons why we do it,” he said.
Volunteers met at the American Memorial Park as early as 6am to start the count.
It is called the Christmas Bird Count because it is usually done on Dec. 25. This year, DFW held it on Dec. 22, 2017.