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How many birds? Auburn area joins in nationwide Great Backyard Bird Count

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburnites were taking a census of a different kind over the past four days. The Sierra Foothills chapter of the Audubon Society estimates that more than 300 species of birds flock to the count at some point during the year and the national organization’s four-day Great Backyard Bird Count engaged bird watchers of all ages in the tally. The nationwide bird county is done in conjunction with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Rudy Darling, a board member with the Sierra Foothills chapter, said that he’s been checking his feeders both at home and work and, on Saturday, took a group on a field trip to observe rarer species. Like the census, the Backyard Bird event provides a count that can be used for further study. Darling said that includes tacking West Nile virus and gauging migratory patterns. Auburn has been designated a bird sanctuary but some of the best places to observe birds are out of town. They include: -Low-lying agricultural areas in western Placer County, particularly east of Lincoln, which provide marshy space for raptors, sparrows and wintering waterfowl. -The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area offers oak woodlands habitat for a variety of species, including Western Bluebirds, the Yellow-breasted Chat and the Rufous-crowned Sparrow. -And just east of the Foresthill Bridge, the foothill chaparral offers opportunities, particularly in the fall and summer for sightings of the California Thrasher, Lawrence’s Goldfinches and other birds. -Higher into the Sierra after the snow clears, birdwatchers flock to the Martis Creek Reservoir, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, Mosquito Ridge Road and Lake Tahoe vantage points. Roger Strahle, owner of Auburn’s Wild Bird Station, said his own backyard tally turned up plenty of sparrows and juncos while finches were abundant in his feeders. The weather has been decent in the area for both man and bird in recent days. Strahle said that he recorded a high of 70 degrees at his house on the weekend. That has meant birds have already started arriving and looking at his nesting boxes. “Punxsutawney Phil – (the famous weather-forecasting groundhog in Pennsylvania) – doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Strahle said. During the four-day count observers were able to do the tally from 15 minutes to as long as they wished. As of late Monday, the rock pigeon was the most commonly spotted bird in the Auburn area, with 75 sightings. Canada Geese were next, with 57 views. Other notable sightings included 9 wild turkeys, two Great Blue Herons, four turkey vultures, 25 crows and one peregrine falcon. Nationally last year, 6.3 million birds were counted and 53,359 checklists were turned in