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Citizen scientests take to the field

Don’t be surprised if you see a few more folks wandering around with binoculars on Saturday.

Birders will be out and about in Wichita and the Newton area as part of annual Christmas bird counts.

Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 many thousands of birders will be doing the same in many parts of the world. Their findings provide a great look at current wild bird populations and ranges.

According to the National Audubon Society this is the 110th year for such counts. Basically birders follow similar routes year after year, noting both species found and strong estimates on individual birds seen.

Such counts helped document the heavy toll West Nile Virus took on some songbirds a few years ago. Locally black-capped chickadees were especially hard hit.

But the counts are about more than just science, trust me. I’ve covered several Christmas counts and some have been under some severe weather conditions.

I’ve yet to meet a participant that wasn’t having a good time.

Nobody said citizen science can’t be fun.

Sunday’s outdoors page in The Eagle will have the story on a birder who has been part of counts for more than 50 years. I’ll also have a round-up of what was found on Saturday’s Wichita count.