Final week, I sat right down to interview 10-year-old Sage Merrill-Exton, a fourth grader at Pagosa Springs Elementary. Sage participated on this 12 months’s Christmas Chook Rely (CBC) final Saturday, December 17, marking her third 12 months of surveying birds for the oldest chicken depend within the western hemisphere. Observe: some responses have been edited for brevity.
Inform me about your first Christmas Chook Rely. What did you see that day and what was it that made it a enjoyable expertise?
It was actually, actually chilly! In any other case, it was a transparent morning and simple to see. I went with my dad. We noticed a Hooded Merganser! Its hood (the male’s regal crest) was actually memorable. It was enjoyable seeing new birds and difficult myself to establish them. I noticed some European Starlings…they had been so purple! I actually like how colourful they’re. Additionally, I noticed the Trumpeter Swan on Lake Forest.
That’s nice! Oftentimes, our lakes have frozen over by then and our native swan heads to Navajo Reservoir or elsewhere for open water. So that you had been fortunate to see it on depend day! What else?
We counted LOTS of Pygmy Nuthatches at neighbor’s feeders.
Why do you retain doing CBCs?
As a result of each CBC I get to see a brand new type of chicken. It’s enjoyable being concerned in it. I get to see connections in our ecosystem. Additionally, my neighbors now contact me for recommendation round birds. One neighbor contacted me and requested me to establish a chicken on this calendar he made for the brand new 12 months. I informed him it appears like a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.
Do you and your dad have traditions across the CBC?
We prefer to get out early whereas the birds are energetic. We’ll often try the [Lake Forest] in a number of spots; there are often an entire bunch of geese over there. Then, we prefer to drive up Martinez Canyon and thru our neighborhood, searching for different birds. After we get house, we prefer to heat up by the fireplace and drink scorching cocoa. Then, we ship our checklist to my grandmother and inform her what we discovered and she or he tells us what she noticed too.
Do you suppose you’ve realized different issues about birds or science from doing the CBC?
Sure. Birds are a key animal group. It’s vital to incorporate them in our world, and never ignore them. Additionally, they make me pay extra consideration in my neighborhood. It’s fascinating to consider what’s happening of their lives, not simply ours.
Do you prefer to go birding outdoors of the CBC?
Yeah. I like going birding in nationwide parks. One time, for my eighth birthday, we went to the Monte Vista Nationwide Wildlife Refuge. We obtained to see cranes. Additionally, there have been hawks hovering over the fields. Seeing new species that aren’t in our space is enjoyable. I like to jot down down every part about them in my area journal. I’ve a Blue Jay feather in my e book from my grandma’s home. We obtained to see a (male) cardinal in Saguaro Nationwide Park. It was actually brilliant!
How did you get into birding?
It was largely my grandma and my dad. He was outdoors loads for work and seeing fairly birds, like Western Tanagers. I believed they had been cool and I all the time wished to become involved in learning one thing like birds. Once I go to see my grandma, we all the time go to go to a giant lake close to her. My favourite animals are turtles and so she all the time takes me to see the turtles there. And there’s an enormous island throughout the water filled with Double-crested Cormorant nests. There are tons of cool geese there too. Additionally, my grandpa began sending me these magazines with footage of birds to assist [me] get began. Then I obtained a bunch of chicken books. COVID type of helped me to get into birds too as a result of I could possibly be outdoors a lot extra. My buddy and I’d get executed with our classes on the pc after which go outdoors.
What do you suppose are some actions that individuals and Audubon can do to assist birds?
Making birdhouses, so there are extra locations birds can nest in. And cease leaving out trash. Birds are in every single place. There’s not anyplace the place there are zero birds.
What do you suppose can be a great way to get extra college students your age enthusiastic about birds?
I’ve been considering of, perhaps after I become old, going into the elementary college as a mentor. I might go there and provides them a birding lesson as soon as each week. At some point I might educate them concerning the elements of a chicken. After which one other day, I’d ask them to request a favourite chicken, and we might research that chicken and speak about its area marks and stuff. Additionally, one other concept is making chicken stickers. Typically I prefer to make earrings for bake gross sales. I believed it could possibly be cool to make chicken stickers to promote as effectively.
Contemplating that birders are sometimes middle-aged and up, Sage is a good (and youthful) addition to our native Weminuche Audubon Society counts and actions. As an educator of birds, personally, it’s a second of honest delight and pleasure to work with somebody so and invested in birds. As a way to safe a wholesome future for birds, we have to foster an curiosity in them. That’s not all the time straightforward, as we’re vulnerable to taking birds without any consideration. They transfer shortly! All it takes is sparking an curiosity round an preliminary outing. Deal with it like a scavenger hunt! The Christmas Chook Rely is an occasion that always ignites that lifelong curiosity. In case you and your loved ones are enthusiastic about getting concerned within the Christmas Chook Rely, click on right here to discover a depend close to you!