Birders can get a jump on the year's Christmas Bird Count by heading to Wind Cave National Park for its annual bird count this Sunday.
People wishing to participate in the bird count should meet at the visitor center at 8 a.m. Participants are asked to dress warmly, bring a lunch, field guides, binoculars, and something to share for dinner with a place setting. Participants will return to the visitor center at 4:15 p.m. to compile results and share in a potluck dinner.
The Christmas Bird Count 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.
A holiday open house will be held on Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the visitor center. Light refreshments will be served, and students from the Hot Springs’ third grade will sing carols around 1:15 p.m. The visitor center Christmas tree will be decorated by the students.
“The open house is one of our favorite events each year as it gives us an opportunity to meet and greet our neighbors,” said Superintendent Vidal Davila. “We would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season, and we look forward to seeing you either at the open house or in 2014.”
During the open house, the public will be able to view park exhibits and browse through the visitor center’s bookstore, which is operated by the Black Hills Parks and Forests Association. Cave tours will also be offered, as they are throughout the winter, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.
The visitor center and cave will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day to allow staff to celebrate the holidays with their families. Throughout the remainder of the winter, the visitor center will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.