Love birds? Looking for a fun way to spend time outdoors during the holidays? Death Valley National Park is inviting visitors to come to a fun day of bird counting, as part of a nationwide conservation event. The park’s own official Christmas Bird Count will begin at 7 a.m. PST on Friday, December 21 at the Oasis at Death Valley.

The history of this curious tradition goes back more than a century ago, when members of the National Audubon Society decided to present an alternative to Christmas bird hunting traditions, and allowed the growing birding movement in the U.S. to gain steam throughout the 20th century. Since then, that tradition of counting birds around the Christmas holiday has grown to reach thousands of Americans today. In addition to the event at Death Valley National Park, 70,000 volunteers in more than 2,400 locations will be getting a similarly early start—give or take a time zone—thanks to the coordination behind National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.

According to data collected by the Audubon Society, last year’s Christmas Bird Count was larger than any year before. A total of 59,242,067 individual birds of 2,673 species and 426 additional forms and hybrids were counted across the United States. The goal of the count is not only to monitor bird populations and how they change over time, but also learn about the role national parks play in creating habitats and protecting endangered species.

Despite the foreboding name, Death Valley is home to 357 species of birds, making it one of the most diverse birding habitats in the national park system, especially during migration season. This year, the Christmas Bird Count in Death Valley National Park could offer important insight into the impact of an especially tough fire season on wildlife.

backpackers traverse through canyons in death valley national park

Hikers in Death Valley National Park. Image from the NPS

Participants don’t have to commit to a full day of birding when joining the Christmas Bird Count in any location, but for those interesting in attending the event at Death Valley, organizers of the Christmas Bird Count do ask that participants arrive by the 7 a.m. PST start time in order to get instructions. Dress for the weather and spending the day outside— hiking boots and outdoor apparel, sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water are recommended. Bring your binoculars, too, if you have them.

If you have any questions, you can reach organizer Carol Fields at 760-786-3252.

Meghan O'Dea

Meghan O'Dea

Meghan O'Dea is a writer, world traveler, and life-long learner who grew up in the foothills of Appalachia. College led to summer stints in England and Slovenia, grad school to a sojourn Hong Kong, and curiosity to everywhere in between. She has written for the Washington Post, Fortune Magazine, Chowhound, Eater Magazine, and Uproxx amongst others. Meghan hopes to visit all seven continents with pen and paper in tow.