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story.lead_photo.caption A black swan was spotted at Lake Bella Vista park in Bentonville in January. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF)

Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count began Friday, and official outings already have been conducted at Jonesboro, Magnolia, Arkadelphia, the Buffalo National River, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Fayetteville, Lonoke and at Lake Ouachita and Village Creek state parks.

But the count continues through Jan. 5, and 20 outings remain. There's time to contact a leader for permission to join in.

Any level of knowledge is OK, and it's free— but this is not like the Backyard Bird Count in which people look for birds at their own convenience. The 119-year-old Christmas survey is useful to scientists because it is done in the same 15-mile circles for the same amount of time every year, and the results are tabulated in a certain way.

A circle's leader must grant permission for counting in participants' backyards. Without that assignment, counting won't count.

The map of leaders' contacts is at audubon.org. Click through the "Christmas Bird Count" box and the highlighted text that mentions "a map view of the circles ..."

Leif Anderson of the U.S. Forest Service in Hector will answer general questions at Leanderson@fs.fed.us or by phone — call (479) 284-3150, Extension 3151, and leave a message.

Today, volunteers will count birds they see or hear within circles at Hot Springs Village and Mountain Home.

Remaining locations include Illinois Bayou near Hector, Mississippi River State Park, Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge, Sylamore Ranger District, Bella Vista/Bentonville/Centerton, Crooked Creek near Harrison, Lake Georgia Pacific and the Felsenthal NWR, Conway, Hot Springs National Park, Wapanocca NWR near Turrell, Pine Bluff, Lake Dardanelle area, Big Lake NWR at Manila, Texarkana, Holla Bend NWR at Pottsville, Mount Magazine and Pond Creek NWR (Lockesburg).

Style on 12/17/2018

Print Headline: Christmas Bird Count a wing through Jan. 5

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