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Bird-watchers step out to tally avian population

Updated: 2013-02-18T04:58:02Z

By LYNN HORSLEY

The Kansas City Star

On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, a small, intrepid group on Indian Creek Trail in south Kansas City was on a serious global mission.

They were craning their necks skyward to join in the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, which comes every Presidents Day weekend to help scientists get a snapshot of what’s happening to bird populations. This is the first year checklists are being accepted from anywhere in the world for the count, led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

“It’s incredible,” said 10-year-old Ethan Auch, who had joined his mother, Cindy Auch, and 9-year-old sister, Eliana, on the outing. “The bluebirds, they’re very beautiful.”

Cindy Auch, of Grandview, learned about the birding count through an earlier event at the nearby Trailside Center, 9901 Holmes Road. She said her mother in Wisconsin had gotten the kids excited about Wisconsin birds, so she decided they needed to seek out the birds closer to home. In addition to two or three bluebirds, they had spotted cardinals and a red-bellied woodpecker.

About a dozen people joined in Sunday’s count at 4 p.m. sponsored by the Trailside Center. While it wasn’t an actual backyard, organizers said it was an ideal spot to see lots of bird activity.

“It’s good habitat because there’s lots of water, and the trail means we can get to it,” said birding enthusiast Steve Rinne.

About 10 years ago, Rinne started counting the birds at the feeders in his Kansas City backyard. He joined three years ago with Trailside Center president Ann O’Hare to do the count from Indian Creek Trail. This weekend, they were among bird-watchers all over Jackson County who were joining in the count, Rinne said.

The group had tallied 18 kinds of birds by 6 p.m. Sunday, as it was getting dark. While 4 p.m. may have seemed late to get started, naturalist Sara Scheil, who participated in the count, said it was actually a good birding time.

“In the evening, birds come out about as much as in the morning,” she said. “They need a snack before they go to bed.”

Months of drought have been tough on birds, but Indian Creek offers a welcome water supply, plus trees and weeds full of seeds and other nourishment, she said.

A handful of birders also got out at 8 a.m. Saturday, when it was only 17 degrees. They were rewarded with an abundance of riches — sightings of 28 species, including a belted kingfisher, a Carolina wren, woodpeckers, northern mockingbirds, juncos and two brown creepers.

“We saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker,” Rinne said. “To come up with that, that’s what’s really fun.”

The count resumes at 8 a.m. today at the Trailside Center parking lot. More information about the bird count is at birdsource.org/gbbc.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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