Seneca County bird watchers are preparing for this year's Christmas bird count Dec. 18.
In addition to the usual birders, coordinator Jim Coffman is inviting new volunteers, especially youth, to join the experts in this year's 111th national count.
Locally, this is the 58th count. The first one in Seneca County took place in 1953, Coffman said, judging from an old newspaper story of an early count.
"I would like to have more young people try the half-day of counting," he said. "As with any activity, new generations will be needed to carry on what has proved to be an event useful in tracking and understanding birds."
The second weekend of deer-gun hunting season again will take place at the same time as the bird count.
"We sent a letter asking that it be moved, but to no avail," Coffman said.
Deer season takes away some people who normally would participate, he said.
"For people who don't deer hunt, there are some opportunities to ride along with some experienced birders," Jim said.
He suggested taking along binoculars and dressing warm in layers. There is some walking involved, but not a lot.
"Some kids get extra credit in school for counting," he said. "There might be some other groups interested, like Scouts."
If parents aren't sure they want their kids going on the count, he invited the parents, too.
"It only costs you a pair of binoculars and your time," he said. "And you can get experience with the expert birder."
Coffman said many of the group leaders do the same sections every year.
"Doing same sections has a benefit because they know exactly where to look," he said. "We try to find red-headed woodpeckers because they know where to look.
"Turkeys are always neat to see because they're usually in groups and you never know exactly where you're going to see them," he said.
He remembers one foggy morning when 45 turkeys walked across the road in front of him.
Anyone interested in counting owls should call Coffman or call Tom Bartlett at the numbers listed below to get the details. Owl calling usually is 4-6 a.m.
The owl crew plans to meet for breakfast at Shoey's Cool Creations, 706 S. Sandusky St. The rest of the volunteers can meet them there or get instructions ahead of time.
Coffman said volunteers also can count birds at their home feeders if they aren't able to join crews in the field. Anyone interested should call him for instructions on how to count at feeders.
Participants will be divided up into groups to search in pie-shaped sections in a 7 1/2-mile radius. The center point is near Wagner Flowers.
At noon, everyone meets at Columbian High School to add up the numbers of birds found.
"We tend to know the regulars really well," he said. "There tend to be a lot of robins and cedar waxwings."
One bird usually missing from today's counts that was found during early years is the bobwhite quail.
"The blizzard (of 1978) had done a terrific number on them," he said. "They're a difficult bird to reintroduce because they don't take to reintroduction as well as they do to spreading out from another location."
Coffman said volunteers likely are to see at least 25 species of birds.
"We've had higher years and a few low, but most of the time we're in the 55-62 (species) range," he said, when the number are tallied from all the groups.
"I think what will be interesting, if the water stays open, is the number of waterfowl we get," he said.
Two unusual birds were found last year.
"Last year, we had the blue goose and snow goose," he said.
Interested people should call Coffman at home (419) 448-4753 and leave a message, work (419) 862-4268 before 3 p.m. or cell (419) 618-1835 after 3 p.m. Owl counters can call Tom Bartlett at (419) 447-0005.
Vicki Johnson reports on outdoors, agriculture and business news for The Advertiser-Tribune.