Birders have been out in full force around Washington the past few weeks as part of the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas bird count.
Each year, tens of thousands of volunteers head out to different spots over the course of several weeks to see how many birds they can count within a 24-hour period.
In South King County, the Rainier Audubon Society has been holding the count for more than 35 years.
Calen Randall is one of the group's leaders. He’s been leading the area’s bird count for six years.
"You see changes with bigger growth and bigger development,” Randall said. “Some birds, like California quail or ring neck pheasant, which are more of game birds, we really don't see them much anymore, partly because of housing developments pushing out some of that scrubland that they like."
One recent morning, the 21-year-old took a handful of birders around a wooded, finger shaped lake – meticulously tallying each bird they heard or saw.
Randall has watched the ebb and flow of different species over the years in the region.
“Eurasian colored dove has really expanded here, California scrub jay used be only a southern Washington species and they have been continually increasing north,” Randall said.
Marris Mullaley and her husband, Greg, enjoy birding, but this year is their first time participating in the Christmas bird count.
“It is somewhat of a solitary hobby,” Marris Mullaley said. “You go do it with one of the three people you know who bird.”
“It’s also nice to see all the water fowl this time of year because we get so many ducks here in the Pacific Northwest,” Greg Mullaley added.
What the Rainer Audubon chapter finds in this swath of the Puget Sound will be recorded and compiled – along with the counts from volunteers around the globe.
The count began mid-December and ends Jan. 5.