Citizen Science

Why should science be limited to professionals? Anyone with a passion for our desert ecosystem can help contribute data to advance our understanding of what’s here and why it’s important.

ABF supports citizen science programs like the Park’s annual Bighorn Sheep Count, springtime HawkWatch, Christmas Bird Count and the Anza-Borrego Tracking Team. Below you can find out more about these projects and how you can get involved in the science and research that are taking place in Anza-Borrego.


Bighorn Sheep Count

Photo by Don Endicott

You have to be a special kind of crazy to spend four days sitting in the summer heat of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Fortunately, there are enough of those kinds of folks to successfully complete the annual Bighorn Sheep Count! The goal: keep tabs on the population of this iconic federally endangered species (and namesake of the Park!).

For more than 40 years, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has utilized volunteers to conduct its count on the weekend closest to the Fourth of July. It’s an extreme time to be out in the harsh desert environment, but the Park chose one of the hottest times of the year for the count because sheep frequent the few desert waterholes, giving counters the best chance at recording their numbers.

The Bighorn Sheep Count is always looking for new volunteers. If you’d like to share this unique experience, please contact Ranger Steve Bier for more information. Some counters have been volunteering for more than 20 years! Read about what motivates them to come back year after year.

 


Christmas Bird Count
The first Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was organized in 1900 by ornithologist Frank Chapman of the Audubon Society in response to a noticeable decline in bird populations at the end of the 19th Century. Over the past 114 years, the CBC has morphed into one of the most popular Citizen Science projects for families, students, bird enthusiasts, ornithologists and newbies to the hobby of bird watching. The information gathered helps to document changes in bird populations and is useful in guiding conservation measures by government and nonprofit agencies. When combined with other long-term bird counts, whether scientist-run or citizen scientist-run, the information can be used on a much more global scale to document health, populations and breeding patterns of birds throughout the different regions of the world.

To join in the bird counting fun, contact organizer Bob Theriault.

View the complete list of birds found in Anza-Borrego in 2014. More information about the Christmas Bird Count can be found at the Audubon Society’s website.

 


Borrego Valley Hawkwatch

Photo by Don Endicott

Swainson's Hawks pass through the Borrego Valley on their spring migration from wintering grounds in South America — traveling more than 6,000 miles every year! The Borrego Valley Hawkwatch (BVH) takes place every day between February 15 and April 15. BVH has counted more spring Swainson's hawks than any other site in North America! In previous years counters have seen as many as 500 hawks in one day!

The daily tally of raptors migrating through the Borrego Valley is reported to the Hawk Migration Association of North America, a scientific, educational and conservation organization that collects data from hundreds of affiliated raptor-monitoring sites. The Hawkwatch provides important insights into raptor migration and significant information on the status of raptor populations to support research and environmental purposes. Data gathered by Borrego Valley Hawkwatch volunteers have already contributed valuable information about Swainson’s Hawks in Southern California.

Daily reports on hawk sightings and migration can be seen on the Borrego Valley Hawkwatch blog.

You can be a part of science in action! Join counters at the Evening Hawkwatch Site on Borrego Valley Road, 1.5 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive, one hour before sunset, any day between February 15 and April 15. To catch "lift-off" in the mornings, plan to arrive at the Morning Count Site on DiGiorgio Road, 2.3 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive, between 8 and 9 a.m. (earlier on windy mornings).

 


Photo by Don Endicott

Anza-Borrego Tracking Team
Learn to read the exciting stories written on our desert sand and help protect our critical wildlife habitat. The Anza-Borrego Tracking Team conducts wildlife track and sign surveys to help ensure the protection of critical wildlife habitat. Monitoring the presence or absence of wildlife populations can evaluate the health of key species, the connection of open space areas and pathways and reflect the health of the ecosystem. The tracking team offers periodic track and sign training for interested volunteers.

If you’d like to get involved with the Tracking Team, contact leader Karin Vickars.