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Christmas bird count time again

Back for another year and running, the Christmas bird count is here.

This is Ashland's second-consecutive winter participating in the multi-nation bird census, after a 70-year hiatus was ended by local bird enthusiasts Harry Fuller and John Bullock last year.

About 30 counters are expected to disperse into Ashland's designated area on Thursday, Dec. 29, said Bullock, 66, who along with Fuller, 65, is a member of the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Audubon Society.

The center of Ashland's count circle is Emigrant Lake Dam. From there, counters can venture 71/2; miles in any direction to make their tallies.

The circle is broken up into 10 areas, said Bullock, and ranges from the Billings Ranch at the northern part of town along Bear Creek to Mount Ashland Ski Road, encompassing pieces of the Siskiyous and Cascades, an area left off the national count tally since 1940.

"You have to adjust this circle carefully, so you include enough habitat to get a full complement of birds," said Bullock, who is responsible for gathering the count data and sending it to Cornell University, where it is analyzed alongside data from nearly 2,000 other counts.

Aside from last year, and 1940, the only other official bird count Ashland has is from 1939.

"I'm just hoping for a good day," said Bullock, who wants the count to carry on annually. "Last year it was snowing, and blowing and cold. It doesn't seem to bother the birds, though."

The Ashland count tallied 106 species last year, he said. The most common bird was the American robin — 4,024 were counted. The dark-eyed junco was the second most abundant, with 1,843 counted during the 24-hour window.

"People go out after dark and listen for owls," Bullock said. "It's a lot of fun."

He said people can also watch feeders from inside their homes, and turn in tally cards.

"It's a lot warmer that way," said Bullock, "and we could always use more people."

The National Weather Service in Medford is calling for a 60 percent chance of rain on Wednesday, and less of a chance on Thursday.

"It could be a good birding day," Bullock said.

Anyone wishing to participate in the count should contact Bullock at 541-488-7962 or jas@opendoor.com; or Fuller at 541-488-8077 or anzatowhee@yahoo.com.

Concluding the count, participants plan to have a compilation dinner at Alex's at 6 p.m.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.