The Jackson Hole Christmas Bird count’s designated area is some 170 square miles, rounded off. That’s a lot of territory.

That’s from the top of Snow King Mountain to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. That’s the Snake River riparian area, both banks, from north of Moose to the vicinity of the Wilson bridge. That’s Fish Creek, the towns of Jackson and Kelly, Blacktail Butte and the National Elk Refuge. That’s plenty. An entire army of professional ornithologists, citizen scientists, friends and families couldn’t census that much ground.

What Jackson Hole folks can do, spearheaded by the Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club’s Susan Marsh and Susan Patla, is call upon data derived during the decades of Christmas counts, Nature Mapping observations and the observation of locals and visitors through many years to suggest places to go within the count circle to up the odds of an accurate census.

Everyone is welcome to participate. Everyone. You don’t have to be a bird watcher: Susan Marsh will try to pair you with one. She and Susan Patla will present a program featuring local winter bird identification at the Tuesday meeting of the Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club, 6 to 8 p.m. at Teton County Library. Please come.

There’s a two-week availability for a count, but at the year’s end there’s one opportunity. No chance to reschedule. Thus the count goes on, regardless of weather or other impediments. In the Hole that can mean a day — it’s all day and even night for owl watchers — of fortitude, so prepare.

A last-minute opportunity to join the 30 or more happy bird census-takers comes at a count-morning breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, at Bubba’s. We’re determined but not barbarians. Chances are if you’re not familiar with birding in the large circle and its boundaries you’ll be invited to join somebody who is. After stoking up, you’ll be off to a fun, fun day.

A note: On recent Jackson Hole counts, between 50 and 60 species of birds have been censused plus a satisfying return of mammals. Plan for Dec. 15.

Now then, importantly, should you be unable to spend Dec. 15 in the field but are able to glance out your window or be somewhere where birds live or forage, you too can be a part of the count. Keep a little record of what you see and where and when and get your observations to Susan Marsh at 733-5744. Your feeder may be the only place where some presumably unidentified bird or flock of birds is found that day in the count area. Ya never know.

Finally, birds you might think unusual or seldom seen can be reported for a week, from Dec. 16 through Dec. 23. Think of owls, say, or that Eastern blue jay that was in the area in late November.

Have fun, do good work, happy trails.

This year the observance of Thanksgiving day and Hanukkah coincided. A rarity. It seems to deserve attention, even a nickname or two combining the names: “Thanks-ukkah” or something like that. It was reported that a similar coincidence of the two dates would not happen again for some 79,000 years. Can’t wait.

Field Notes: A rather on-and-off end of November. Some snow, some benign weather, some sun, then overcast. And in the valley a reminder of the slipperiness of black ice.

Regardless, birds are trickling in, not yet in huge flocks, with the exception of a few feeder stations frequented by evening grosbeaks, Cassin’s and house finches, chickadees, a few pine grosbeaks. On Thursday an (the?) Eastern blue jay reappeared along Flat Creek in Jackson (Franz Camenzind).

Frances Clark and Bernie McHugh spotted a group of some 80 ravens playing in the wind over the National Elk Refuge’s Miller Butte on Sunday. The ravens may (this is speculation) have left a hunter’s gut pile offering.

Bighorn sheep are along the refuge’s main road — a herd of some 50 animals. It’s close to their rut, and the road side can provide good viewing at times.

Presumably not all bears in the region have denned. As the saying goes, be bear aware. Be wild-animal aware.

The December meeting of the Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Teton County Library. Refreshments, observations and, of course, final preparations for the Dec. 15 Audubon Christmas Bird Count in Jackson Hole. Susan Marsh and Susan Patla will give a few reminders and tips for identifying birds that normally winter here. Susan Marsh’s number is 733-5744.

@Bert Raynes 2013

Bert Raynes writes weekly on what suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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