Annual bird watching event scheduled

Published 7:40 pm Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Bird enthusiasts have a chance to spend their day watching and listening for birds in the refuge.

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is hosting its Christmas Bird Count during its operating hours from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at 3100 Desert Swamp Road. This event is open to all experience levels, and extra binoculars and guide books are available to borrow.

This event is part of the nation’s largest bird counting event that folks have participated in for around 50 years. The community comes to help identify and report birds seen and heard in the sanctuary. This event tracks the later fall and early winter migration for birds in this area and sees if patterns have changed and population numbers have dropped.

“We do this for a number of reasons,” said Cynthia Morris, a biological science tech with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. “We use this data to track any bird loss and to see how the population is faring and to predict behavior and activity.”

There are eight zones for folks to look and listen for birds. The event starts in the early morning to see nighttime birds that aren’t typically out during the day and runs through the afternoon to track the daytime birds. According to Morris, more birds can be visible this time of year, since the leaves are off the trees.

“It lets us know how the habitat is doing and if we are doing our job maintaining the habitat,” said Morris.

The birds typically seen this time of year are sparrows, songbirds, blackbirds, robins, owls, hawks and ducks, to name a few. However, sometimes, birds that shouldn’t be here at this time of the year make a surprise appearance, so bird watchers should pay close attention.

The rain date for this event is Dec. 22. For more information, visit the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page. To volunteer, email Cynthia Morris at cynthia_morris@fws.gov or Melanie Willard at melanie_willard@fws.gov.