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Christmas Bird Count

Birding aficionados might say the belted kingfisher was the crowning jewel of the first Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area Christmas Bird Count in the greater Crosslake area on Dec. 16.

Judd Brink wouldn’t necessarily disagree. But for Brink, the first Christmas Bird Count involving one of Minnesota’s scenic byways — the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway — was what counted the most.

The “Birds of the Byway” didn’t disappoint, with 10 birders counting 23 species and 1,005 birds — including the “unusual” belted kingfisher — in Brink’s first organized Christmas Bird Count.

“My goal is 20 species and we found 23, so it was very successful,” said Brink, a birdscaper and owner of MN Backyard Birds.

Brink said he has participated in about four to five counts a year for the last decade or so.

“This was the first count that encompassed the Byway,” he said. “We’re trying to work together (with the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association) to promote bird watching along the byway.”

The Christmas Bird Count, a national effort in its 112th year — “It’s the largest citizen science project in the world,” Brink said — involves a two-and-a-half-week window from mid-December to early January to gauge bird movement in an effort to better understand our feathered friends. A count was held in Crosby Dec. 17 and the Pillager count is scheduled Jan. 1. Brink participated at Crosby and plans to do the same again at Pillager.

“That count is one of the oldest in Minnesota,” Brink said of Crosby. “It think it’s in its 37th year. There’s a lot of history and data. That’s the fun part — all the comparisons. That’s what I hope to see at Uppgaard. We got a good start. Great baseline data — something to refer to next year.”

While Brink said it was a success, the inaugural Uppgaard count wasn’t without its challenges.

“With the mild weather and lack of snow, it made it very challenging to find birds that would be normally concentrated at bird feeders and fruiting trees,” he said. “However, the mild weather did provide several locations where open water existed that was very productive with one unusual bird, a belted kingfisher.”

When he’s not birdscaping or participating in Christmas Bird Counts, Brink conducts bird counts for the Whitefish Area Lodging Association.

“I see this as a huge opportunity for the lodging industry, using birding as a marketing tool with the byway,” he said. “Hopefully it’s something for the resorts and turns into an annual thing. A new holiday tradition.”

BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to For his blogs, go to