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Christmas Bird Count held along Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway

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The second annual Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area Christmas Bird Count (CBC) took place Saturday, Dec. 22, along the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway.

This year the Uppgaard CBC had 14 participants in the field and one feeder watcher for a total of 15 observers. This count circle is 15 miles in diameter and includes most of the 54-mile Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway route.

The count circle includes the towns/cities of Pequot Lakes, Ideal Corners, Breezy Point, Crosslake, Jenkins and Manhattan Beach. This particular count circle is unique in that it features and encompasses the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway, one of Minnesota’s byways.

This past fall Judd Brink from worked with the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association and the Crow Wing Highway Department to install several new “Birds of the Byway” signs along the byway at Rice Lake/Lowell Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Chiarella Forest Management Area, Uppgarrd WMA, Veterans Walking Trail and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground/park in Crosslake.

The new signage helps identify these locations for wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation.

There were two noticeable changes this year: date of the count and the weather. The first Uppgarrd CBC took place Dec. 16, 2011, a week earlier than the 2012 count. The 2011 weather was very mild with some open water that attracted a few uncommon birds like a Belted Kingfisher.

The 2012 count took place Dec. 22 and found the weather to be more typical for this time of year with more than 6 inches of snow on the ground.

The 15 participants found 30 species of birds compared to last year’s 23 species. The number of participants more than doubled from the inaugural count of only seven participants. The extra sets of eyes and ears helped find more birds, as expected.

In the 2012 count, 12 new birds were added to the CBC list, including American Tree Sparrow (2), Common Merganser (1), Common Redpoll (62), Hoary Redpoll (1), House Sparrow (61), White-throated Sparrow (1), Pine Siskin (1), Pine Grosbeak (51), Ring-necked Duck (1), Red-tailed Hawk (1), Rock Dove (8) and Turkey (4).

One of the highlights of the day came from the Pine River canoe landing where an estimated 75-plus Trumpeter Swans were found.

How does the 2012 count compare to the 2011 count? In 2012, we did see a few changes in the numbers of individuals such as Black-capped Chickadee from 301 to 383. The number of Bluejays dropped from 94 to just 50 in 2012. There are a number of factors that contribute to higher or lower numbers. Over the next few years this census will show if any trends are developing in our region.

(Judd Brink is the data compiler and organizer for the Uppgaard CBC. The results from the 2012 CBC will be available soon and found at Contact Brink at 218-838-4784 or for more information and how you can participate in the 2013 count. Brink offers bird guiding trips year-round along the byway and central Minnesota. Happy birding!)