Ennis bird count in 55th year

Ennis participated in the nationwide Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for the 55th consecutive year on Dec. 18. The CBC takes place across the United States in 15-mile diameter circles that the national Audubon group has designated as good birding habitats.

Ennis’ circle is located around Ennis Lake. Each year, Ennis and Bozeman-area birders break into four or five groups to cover the indicated ground in a single day. For the 2013 count, Audrey and Joel Evers from Bozeman joined Lester Klatt of Ennis in counting birds around the town of Ennis and a few miles north and south on Highway 287.

“[Klatt] really knows where all the feeders are, which is important in the winter because that is where the birds spend time,” A. Evers explained. “This is my husband’s and my fourth year participating in the Ennis count.”

When asked how long he has participated in the Ennis CBC, Klatt said at least 30 years.

The Evers travel from Bozeman because Ennis is a small community and needs extra volunteers to cover the designated land.

In southwest Montana, Christmas Bird Counts happen in Bozeman, Livingston, Three Forks, West Yellowstone and Ennis. The information gathered from each count is sent to the national Audubon group, where it is compiled and distributed in a booklet—the statistics are used to track bird population data.

Magpies and finches were abundant near feeders across town, but the Evers and Klatt were first excited to see a Northern harrier, which is a bird of prey, behind the El Western. By 10 a.m., the birders had sighted and counted five of the species.

Two immature bald eagles were spotted flying south out of town.

“Eagles do not get the fully white head until they are four or five years old,” A. Evers said. “We know these were in their first few years because of how mottled their feathers are.”

The first Montana CBC took place in Bozeman in 1908—according to J. Evers, it consisted of one man on horseback, who was only able to count 10 birds, covering the entire area.

According to Robin Wolcott, who organizes and compiles the Ennis count, the final count for this year’s CBC was 54 species.

“That is an average number,” she said. “We had 56 last year and two years ago we had a monumental count of 73.”

“This is a big event for people who like to bird and who keep track of specific birds in their area,” A. Evers said.

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