Volunteers flock Whitewater State Park for Christmas Bird Count - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Volunteers flock Whitewater State Park for Christmas Bird Count

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ST. CHARLES, Minn. (KTTC) -- Close to zero degree temperatures didn't stop dozens of avid bird watchers from flocking to the wilderness Wednesday to catch a glimpse of some of Minnesota's feathered residents.

All seemed quiet at the Whitewater River Valley, but Wednesday marked the 18th annual Christmas Bird Count. It is part of a national tradition that has been going on for over a century.

17 volunteers participated in the bird count, which tallies up the number of each species that can be found in the park.

"They work together in small teams, they're each assigned a route and they drive their routes, kind of a circumference, around the radius of the park here," said Sara Grover of Whitewater State Park. "And they're just observing the birds they see along the way."

Wildlife specialists say there was nothing unusual from this year's results, but there were some highlights to be recorded.

"We had a red shouldered hawk that came in behind the Visitor's Center here. We see them in the valley but not usually in the park, so that was, everyone got excited about that one," said Grover.

Experts say it's no easy task to spot their flying friends, but patience is a virtue. If you take your time and use binoculars, you should be able to walk away with a neat sighting.

"The route isn't that long and they take their time, they can get out and walk, they're encouraged to get out of their car and walk," added Grover.

Although this event is mostly just for fun, some of the participants who come year after year to spend four hours hiking the trails. They are the ones who consider this a race against the clock and other birders, as they call themselves.

"The first day of the new year and they want to see how many different species they can check off their bird check list, and so some people are a little competitive about it, and others are just families," Grover said. "We had some grandparents who brought their grandson out. So, it's a nice mix of people."

The clock stops at noon when the tallies are counted and then--it's until next year.

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