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Kingsport's Christmas Bird Count set for Dec. 29

Amy Millhorn Leonard • Dec 18, 2018 at 4:30 PM

After all of the colorful autumn leaves drop to the earth and the trees are bare, a hidden world is exposed – the world of birds. Usually concealed by foliage, colorful birds now seem to fill the trees and fields, creating a perfect time of year for the nationwide 119th Annual Christmas Bird Count.

In Kingsport, the annual Christmas Bird Count will be held on Dec. 29 and is coordinated by Birding Kingsport, a chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, and Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium.

Kingsport’s count area is centered around the old Pactolus School near the intersection of Moreland Drive and Rock Springs Road and reaches into Hawkins County and slightly into Southwest Virginia.

“Northeast Tennessee is a unique area for birds providing a large diversity of species and habitats because of variations in altitude and rivers, streams and lakes,” says Bill Grigsby, vice president of programs for Birding Kingsport. “We are seeing a variety of ducks and other waterfowl on the rivers like Horned Grebes and Pied-billed Grebes. There is also an abundant number of Red-breasted Nuthatches, typically northern birds, and we now see many Eastern Bluebirds, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and House Finches,” declares Bill.

Some birds in the area are transient birds, migrating here from the north or midwest, some are only here in the winter while others stay in the area year-round making December a perfect time for counting.

Birding Kingsport invites everyone, regardless of experience, to become “citizen scientists” and participate in the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to technological advancements, the counting is done using the cell phone app “ebird” utilizing a GPS. Teams of bird counters will be assigned to sub-areas of the Greenbelt, Bays Mountain Park, Warriors’ Path State Park, Cattails at Meadowview Golf Course and Fort Patrick Henry Dam areas. There are also opportunities to count birds at feeders.

The first Christmas Bird Count took place on Christmas Day in 1900, as a suggestion by Frank M. Chapman, an ornithologist and officer of the Audubon Society later chartered in 1905. For 118 years, the Christmas Bird Count has been held at Christmas time to gather information about bird species and populations for the purpose of conservation. All around the United States including the Tri-Cities area, birds are counted in 15-mile-radius areas and data collected is sent to the National Audubon Society.

Formed prior to 1950, Birding Kingsport was organized as a club for people interested in birds, including species, habitats and conservation. Birding Kingsport is the Fred J. Alsop III Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, in honor of Dr. Fred Alsop, an avid ornithology and conservation contributor in the area. Club meetings are held each month on the fourth Tuesday at 7 p.m., normally at the Toy F. Reid Eastman Employee Center located at 200 Wilcox Drive. They also have several birding walks each month and participate in a spring bird count along with other projects dedicated to bird education and conservation.

To learn more about the Christmas Bird Count and Birding Kingsport, contact them on the chapter's website at www.mountainempirebirds.net/, email birdingkingsport@gmail.com, reach out through Facebook: Birding Kingsport or call Bill Grigsby at (423) 578-4818.

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