For the first time in the 25-year history of Wind Cave National Park’s Christmas Bird Count, Cassin’s finch was spotted by bird count volunteers.
By Marcus Heerdt
HOT SPRINGS --- Wind Cave National Park held its 25th annual Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, Dec. 13 (for full story, see Dec. 17 edition of the Herald-Star).
The count is performed each year to document winter birdlife and covers Wind Cave National Park, bordering Black Hills National Forest lands to the west, and southern portions of Custer State Park.
From 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., bird count volunteers, each assigned to a different area, covered a total of 201.2 miles traveled by vehicle and hiked 63.5 miles.
“Christmas Bird Count data provides long-term trends in abundance for wintering bird population across North America. Wind Cave National Park uses the data in a similar fashion as an indicator of health of local bird populations,” said Angela Jarding, Wildlife Biologist for Wind Cave. “We had a great turn out with a record number of people volunteering their time this year. Thirty participants counted 1,336 birds and included 37 species. This was an above average year for total counts and species recorded.”
Normally expected birds such as black-capped chickadees and dark-eyed junco were the most common birds sighted during this year’s Christmas Bird Count. However, one type of bird was seen for the first time in the 25-year history of the count.
“A highlight from the Christmas Bird Count were 13 Cassin’s finch which is a new bird species for the count and was seen inside the park,” Jarding said.
Although spotting Cassin’s finch in the Black Hills region is not totally uncommon, the birds are usually found more to the west in the Rocky Mountain region, with most migrating south for the winter.
Other highlights include two ferruginous hawks seen near the Wind Cave visitor center, two Wilson’s snipe spotted in Custer State Park, and record-high amounts of black-capped chickadee (278), white-breasted nuthatch (68), rock pigeon (61), and pine siskin (78) reported during the count.
For more information about Wind Cave National Park and its annual Christmas Bird Count, call (605) 745-4600.