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Originally published Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 12:07 AM

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Weekend highlight

Forget social networks. For a real tweet, count birds this Christmas.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 19-27, 2009, Seattle, Eastside, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Vashon.

Seattle Times staff

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Join one of 50 groups in Washington — among more than 50,000 birders throughout North America — in an annual daylong census of bird populations. All levels of birders, beginners to expert, are welcome, including folks who stay home to observe birds at feeders in their yard.

The Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count, staged on various dates this year from Dec. 14-Jan. 5, from Alaska to Antarctica, was founded in 1900 and is believed to be the longest-running citizen-science survey in the world. The data helps identify birds in need of conservation action and reveals success stories of endangered species making a comeback.

Local counts this weekend include Audubon groups in the Eastside, Pierce County and Edmonds areas. While the counts are coordinated by Audubon, you need not be a member to participate. Seattle's event, Dec. 26, requires registration by tomorrow and is a good chance to try out Seattle Audubon Society's activities, since the group's field events are usually filled by members only.

Birding is suitable for all ages and requires only binoculars, a field guide and a notebook. The Christmas Bird Count is a good time for beginners to join a small group of experienced birders to learn the basics. Patience and a desire to connect to nature are the only prerequisites; birders say a sense of wonder and a bit of peaceful solitude are your rewards, though there can be other triumphs. Tahoma Audubon proudly notes that out of the 1,623 counts last year, they recorded 253 red-necked grebes, the largest number in the country.

Bird Count volunteers work in designated 15-mile-diameter circles, including counters at home feeders tallying according to Audubon rules. Information and a calendar of counts throughout the state is available on Washington Ornithological Society's Web site, www.wos.org/WACBCs.htm. Information is also available from Audubon Washington, wa.audubon.org, or the National Audubon Society, www.audubon.org.

The details

Eastside Audubon Society: Bird Count on Saturday, join groups, sign up online, $5; or observe birds in your yard for at least two consecutive hours and send your numbers to h2ouzel@comcast.net or call 425-746-6351 by 5 p.m.; post-count dinner, Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church, 308 Fourth Ave. S., Kirkland, $6, reservations required, 425-576-8805. www.eastsideaudubon.org.

Tahoma Audubon Society: Bird Count on Saturday, dinner to turn in totals and share information, 5 p.m., Tacoma Nature Center, 1919 S. Tyler St., Tacoma; $6. 253-942-9233 or www.tahomaaudubon.org.

Pilchuck Audubon Society: Edmonds area, Bird Count on Sunday; Everett, Dec. 27. 452-778-7568 or www.pilchuckaudubon.org.

Seattle Audubon Society: Bird Count on Dec. 26, registration required by Friday. Register online: www.seattleaudubon.org. Information: 206-523-8243, Ext. 80.

Rainier Audubon Society: Bird Count on Dec. 27, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way, Maple Valley, south Renton. Join a group or watch feeders in your yard; potluck to share results, 4 p.m., Federal Way United Methodist Church, 29645 51st Ave. S., Auburn. 253-796-2203 or www.rainieraudubon.org/cbc.htm.

Vashon-Maury Audubon Society: Bird Count on Dec. 27, Vashon-Maury Island, Blake Island and the Kitsap Peninsula in organized groups or by counting birds in your yard, followed by potluck, 5 p.m., Land Trust Building, 10014 S.W. Bank Road, Vashon. 206-463-1484 or www.vashonaudubon.org.

Madeline McKenzie: 206-464-8245 or mmckenzie@seattletimes.com

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