Bird-watching event set to take flight this Christmas

MARFA — On the morning of December 26, some Marfans won’t be looking under trees but over them. The first annual Marfa Backyard Christmas Bird Count is inviting locals to get acquainted with local winter birds, while also contributing data toward establishing Marfa’s baseline bird population.

Put together by a pair of local bird lovers, Suzanne Dungan and Chick Rabourn, participants will print out a bird count sheet that contains 30 birds common to the Marfa area, ranging from sparrows and finches to the ruby-crowned kinglet and American kestrel.

After printing out the sheet, birders will settle in at home, either in their yard or at a window that overlooks it. The bird count will happen from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., where individuals are encouraged to tally every bird they see and hear, using a field guide or a handy cell phone to help identify them. Participants are then encouraged to send in a photo of their tally to an email set up by the pair.

As for how this event landed in Marfa, Dungan — who has decades of bird watching under her belt — was inspired to create the interactive bird-watching event because of a similar event that she went to in Fort Davis.

“We’re not an organization, but I get a lot of people who ask me to take them birding, so we thought well, let’s see how far this goes, how interested people are,” said Dungan.

Dungan also alluded to the fact that this year Christmas will be a bit different because of COVID-19, and she wanted to create something that people could do in the safety of their own backyard. Because of this, accessibility is something she made sure to stress.

“We’re trying to make it simple so a lot of people can participate. Don’t feel that you can’t participate because you don’t have a pair of binoculars. And if you only see three birds, that’s fine, put it down, send it in. The important thing is the overall picture, and it’s something the family can do together,” said Dungan.

As for where these bird counts will go, Dungan said they will be used to create a count of the most common birds people tend to see in the region. “It’s a nice little exercise in how scientific information is gathered that families can do with their kids,” said Dungan.

While this is the first Christmas Bird Count, Dungan’s hopes are soaring high as she already has plans for the future. She hopes that spurred interest in bird watching could lead to a larger, more official event in the future. To get more information on how to participate, email marfabirdcount@gmail.com.


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