One of The Season's First Christmas Bird Counts is at Wind Cave National Park on Sunday

Wind Cave National Park will host its annual Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, December 13. If anyone spots a Western tanager, you'll know the climate is acting funny, as this colorful bird is a summer resident in the park, not winter. NPS photo by Chris Wonderly.

Barring bad weather, the folks at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota will be counting birds on Sunday when their annual Christmas Bird Count is scheduled to be tallied.

The event, like many others throughout the National Park System, is patterned after the National Audubon Society’s effort to document trends in wintering birdlife throughout the United States. The count area will include all of Wind Cave National Park and areas of the Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park.

“This annual activity helps us document winter birdlife in the park and surrounding area,” said Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila. “Information from the count is added to the park’s bird database and provided to the South Dakota Ornithological Union.”

People wishing to participate should meet at the park visitor center at 8 a.m. Participants are asked to dress warmly, bring a lunch, field guides and binoculars, something to share for dinner and a place setting. Participants will return to the park’s VIP Center at 4:15 p.m. to compile results and share in a potluck dinner. For more information, contact Barb Muenchau or Dan Roddy at (605) 745-4600.

Tallies from counts held in 2007, 2006, and 2005 show some interesting, and some not-so-interesting, trends. For instance, while the Bald Eagle count went from eight in 2005 up to 11 in 2006 before dipping to six in 2007, the numbers of wild turkeys exploded in 2007, jumping to 183 from 36 the year before, while the number of Rock Pidgeons (aka doves) jumped to 19 in 2007 from just three the year before. And while no Horned Larks were spotted in either 2005 or 2006, there were 122 of these melodious birds spotted in 2007.