A decades-old tradition of counting wild birds during the Yuletide season culminates in Iowa today with the “Christmas Bird Count” at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in central Iowa’s Jasper County. Organizers say you can take part even if you don’t know a blue jay from a goldfinch.Pauline Drobney is a refuge biologist at the Prairie Learning Center in Prairie City. She says the count is designed to track annual changes in bird populations and distributions of birds in early winter. All local number go into an international database, organized by the Audubon Society. Drobney says you can drive a course, counting birds, or sign up for the walking course. She says the wildlife refuge is a wide and beautiful habitat for many species of birds — and other creatures. Drobney encourages “birders,” nature lovers and anyone else who’s looking for a little exercise and fun to give the bird count a whirl, starting at 8 this morning.The Christmas Bird Count was first conducted 102 years ago. This year, more than 45-thousand birders will take part in two thousand counts across the U-S, Canada and Central and South America. For details, call (515) 994-3400.
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