Bird enthusiasts gear up for Annual Count in South Mississippi

This Christmas, bird enthusiasts would be gathering around Christmas throughout the Western Hemisphere for, what they call, “the longest-running wildlife census”. Besides keeping track of the winged species that reach South Mississippi, the annual census’s aim is to check the health of the environment.

Mark LaSalle, director of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, said, “This is the amateur bird community, largely led by the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society”.

About 25 participants, members and non-members, sign up for the count each year, which includes a 15-mile area centered at the Armstrong Community Center southeast of Salado. Beginning this weekend, the annual count would continue till January 4.

Though the trend is learnt to have started 116 years ago, the 25 days of venturing out to identify and count various birds in specific areas started 30 years ago. Each year, around 200 bird species are seen in South Mississippi, many of which visit the place seasonally.

An editor at the Sun Herald, Kim Anderson, who has been following the Christmas Bird Count religiously for the past around a decade, said, "It is a fabulous day to be out birding".

Among her sightings, Kim claimed were white pelicans near her house, a golden-crowned kinglet and a bald eagle. It is a function of being a citizen scientist and looking out for the good of the wildlife, she added.