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Conservation Counts!

Birding with a Purpose:

One of the ways that NAAS contributes to conservation is to count birds during official bird surveys. Our counts are Community Science initiatives on the fly. NAAS holds field trips that count!  Conservation-minded members are invited to join point-count survey teams to learn how counting birds can make a difference. We count birds because it adds to scientific research; without which, no conservation measures would get funded. Whether it’s simply submitting and sharing eBird checklists from our field trips; an organized point-count to understand the decline of a specific species, or species in a certain habitat; or counting every single bird during fun Christmas Bird Counts, counting birds matters. And there’s no need to be an expert. Below are the many opportunities to join our community science projects coordinated or supported by Northern Arizona Audubon Society.

Here is a list of the bird surveys we participate in. To learn more, read about each survey:

In this Section:   Nightjars | Pinyon Jay Community Science Initiative | Bluebird Project NestWatchChristmas Bird Counts | Colonial Water birds | North American Marsh Bird Survey | Climate Watch | 2022 State of the Birds Report

Why we count birds:

"Data from bird surveys provide information on population status and trends that help identify species or populations requiring conservation action. Changes in distribution and status can also serve as an early-warning system by highlighting potential environmental problems, can help refine research priorities, and can help track the success of ongoing management activities." Climate change and bird surveys

Why we count nestlings

Challenges for nestlings - read more

This article highlights how important our monitoring activity is to the scientists who study birds and climate impacts. You can help!

Imagine you are checking a nest box with bluebirds - you're a NAAS "Bluebirder".  You get to observe not only how many nestlings might fledge, but also this protective parent chasing a squirrel!  If you would like to help monitor bluebird boxes this spring, we could use your help. NAAS has two bluebird trails: one at Picture Canyon and one at Kachina Wetlands. We are looking for new monitors who are willing to visit one of the trails 4-5 times during the season. During each visit you will observe bird activity and input data into an app for each box. As a Community/Citizen Scientist, you'd be adding your observation to a national database.

You will join a team of 3-4 other monitors who take turns checking 12 bluebird boxes each week. The season runs from the beginning of April through the end of August. We use the Cornell Labs NestWatch app to record the data collected. This allows scientists to track the status of birds nationwide. Please contact Lori Kruse by March 15th at if you are interested.


Conducted as a NAAS Field Trip typically during May or June (on nights of brightest moonlight)

Imagine being 10 miles down a dirt road at 10:00 p.m. on a summer’s night. The stars are out. Honanki’s red rocks appear as giant spirits standing watch in the dark. The temperature is neutral – not hot or cold. The anticipation of awaiting Common Poorwills singing, “Poor Will - Poor Will”, from the upland grassy countryside is palpable. You quietly get out of the car and assume your position. Julie Wills says, “Start” and you stand absolutely stock still for six minutes. Finally, someone calls “Poorwill” and Linda Sporrer records which minute the poorwill sang. We hear the tiny, high-pitched, distinctive song and relief washes over us. They are here! We, then, try to discern if there were one, two, three, or even four individuals singing at the same time. Contact survey coordinators:  Kay Hawklee

Here’s what NAAS surveyors had to say about why they wanted to join this survey:

Pinyon Jay Community Science Initiative

NAAS has partnered with Southwest Audubon and Great Basin Bird Observatory (GBBO) because Pinyon Jays need our help!  Pinyon Jays have shown nearly an 80% population decline since 1970 and the reasons are not totally clear. Watch this video for a better understanding:  GBBO educational webinar

Recently Defenders of Wildlife submitted a petition for listing the Pinyon Jay as a federally endangered species. This gives NAAS's work even more urgency and significance. Pinyon Jays use Anderson Mesa which is one of NAAS's Important Bird Areas (IBA) Anderson Mesa IBA Pinyon Jay surveys. Understanding their use of this IBA informs scientists of what habitat needs to be protected and what habitat can be "treated" - which includes removal of trees. This is one of NAAS's most important Conservation projects because we want to protect their nesting trees!

Drinking Horn Meadery photo of signature "Oh Hey, Pinyon Jay" mead.  Buy mead online   Much thanks to Drinking Horn for hosting the Pinyon Jay events to educate folks about the protection of Pinyon Jays!

This survey is coordinated by Anne Pelligrini in Flagstaff and routes are available by emailing Anne Peligrinni:

Bluebird Project NestWatch:  

NAAS's "Bluebirders" monitoring project requires a commitment to join a team of 3-4 other monitors who take turns checking bluebird boxes each week. Each person goes out  approximately once a month. The season runs from the end of March through the end of August. NestWatch is a nationwide nest-monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds. Participating in NestWatch is easy and anyone can do it. Cornell's Project NestWatch

Conducted: Late spring through summer at NAAS Sanctuaries: Kachina Wetlands and Picture Canyon

Contact:  Bluebird NestWatch monitoring is currently full.  To put your name on a waitlist to become a “Bluebirder”, contact Lori Kruse - for more information.

"We have 10 volunteers altogether. I love seeing the babies and the very busy adults and it is always nice to have an excuse to walk along the trails." - Bluebirder, Lori Kruse.

Photo provided by Matt Anderson - Bluebirder

Christmas Bird Counts:

Excitement grows after Thanksgiving to see what birds will show up for the Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) which is a bird population survey. It is the longest-running bird count in history: “Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action. The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.” History and video of CBC

Long-term trends in that data show dramatic changes in bird communities, even within the past few decades. Thirty-five years ago, about 1,500 count circles recorded 100 million individual birds. In comparison, for the 122nd count last year, more than 2,600 groups counted only 42 million birds. That means that participants are seeing less than half as many birds three decades later, even though the coverage and effort have substantially increased. Decline in numbers

NAAS sponsors four CBCs:  Surveyors of all levels of birding are encouraged to join in these important and very fun counts! (Think birding with friends, eating chocolate and drinking hot beverages... what could be more fun?!)

  • Sedona: Mid-December.  To join this CBC contact Rich Armstrong at
  • Jerome:  Mid-December. To join this CBC contact Rob Gibbs at
  • Camp Verde: January 2nd. To join this CBC contact Kay Hawklee at
  • Flagstaff: Late-December. To join this CBC contact Brian Hofstetter at

Colonial Waterbird Surveys:

This is a great survey for beginners. Counting large birds in stationary nests makes for a fun first survey. In the late winter, Great Blue Heron rookeries are surveyed for adults and active nests. 

Arizona Coordinated Bird Monitoring Program

"Nationally, the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and Christmas Bird Count (CBC) have indicated downward trends for many species. Many of Arizona’s bird species have limited distribution, and thus are poorly monitored by the BBS, CBC, and other large-scale surveys. These surveys do not adequately sample major bird groups, including: 1) species that breed in marsh, riparian, and grassland habitats, 2) Sonoran Desert species that breed earlier or later than when most BBS surveys are conducted, 3) colonial nesting species, and 4) nocturnal species. Therefore, biologically important population information is lacking for a suite of species."  ABCI species of concern

Conducted:  3 times at each site/2 weeks apart, during February-March

To become a “Colonial Waterbirder” contact:  Kay Hawklee –

North American Marsh Bird Survey:

This survey uses the North American Marsh Bird Monitoring Protocol. Results are sent in to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Species in our area:  Virginia Rail, Sora, Least Bittern, Pied-billed Grebe and American Coot.  "There was a need for targeted efforts to focus specifically on marsh birds in order to advance the understanding of abundance, population trends, and effects of management actions on marsh birds." - Conway, CJ. 2015. National protocol framework for the inventory and monitoring of secretive marsh birds. Inventory and Monitoring, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort Collins, Colorado. 

“Populations of marsh birds may be affected by accumulation of environmental contaminants in wetland substrates because they consume a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates (Odom 1975Klaas et al. 1980Eddleman et al. 1988Gibbs et al. 1992Conway 1995). Marsh birds are also vulnerable to invasion of wetlands by many invasive plant species (e.g. Lythrum salicaria, hybrid Typha, Phalaris arundinacea, Phragmites, etc.) (Gibbs et al. 1992Meanley 1992). Hence, marsh birds may represent “indicator species” for assessing wetland ecosystem quality, and their presence can be used as one measure of the success of wetland restoration efforts (Lewis and Casagrande 1997).” View Source

Conducted 3 times at each site/2 weeks apart, during April-May

To become a “Marsh birder” contact : Kay Hawklee –

Climate Watch

This important study is missing from our repertoire of bird surveys. NAAS currently has no coordinator. To become the Climate Watch Coordinator, please email Kay Hawklee at

Climate Watch Local Coordinators are volunteers who manage their group or area’s participation in Climate Watch by recruiting participants, training them to plan and conduct Climate Watch surveys, and ensuring that the data they collect are submitted to the national Climate Watch team. The coordinator also communicates the science and rationale behind the program, including providing information on the predicted future range changes of the target species. Without a regional coordinator, coordinators will also serve as the main point of contact with the national Climate Watch team and help to improve the program by providing feedback based on their group’s experiences. Climate Watch survey

Reports that explain why we count:

State of the Birds Report:

This report is the most recent and it explain why we must participate in surveys: 2022 State of the Birds Report

Survival by Degrees report:

North America Has Lost More Than 1 in 4 Birds in Last 50 Years.

For the first time, researchers have estimated the volume of total avian loss in the Western Hemisphere—and it’s not just threatened species that are declining - backyard favorites are also losing ground too. "Multiple, complex environmental factors including pesticide use, insect declines, and climate change, as well as direct threats like outdoor cats and glass skyscrapers, are also hitting birds from a range of angles."

Northern Arizona Audubon

P O Box 1496 Sedona, AZ 86339

Sanctuary Locations:

Bubbling Ponds
1950 N Page Springs Rd
Cornville AZ 86325

Sedona Wetlands
7500 W State Route 89A,
Sedona, AZ 86336
(Inbetween mile markes 365 & 366) 

Picture Canyon
N. El Paso Flagstaff Rd 
Flagstaff, Arizona

Kachina Wetlands
2263 Utility Rd,
Flagstaff, AZ 86005

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