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Mute swan was the star of birding show

Twenty-seven birders, including refuge Manager Tony Booth, showed up for this year's annual Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count, sponsored nationally by the Audubon Society, on Dec. 30.

Again this year we gathered at the Environmental Education Center on the refuge between 6 and 7 a.m. where co-coordinators Mike Husak, professor of biology at Cameron University, and Steve Hodge, refuge biological tech, assigned areas to birders within a 15-mile count circle. The count circle is divided up into 10 areas, including the public and special use areas of the refuge, the Fort Sill Military Reservation on the south and the Saddle Mountain-Meers area to the north, including a small portion of Lake Lawtonka and Robertson's Landing on the northeast.

As we headed out to our assigned areas, we were greeted by a spectacular silvery crescent moon that loomed large overhead and hung low on the southeast skyline above the mountains across from the refuge on Fort Sill. A faint glow of reddish orange light began to break out on the far eastern horizon with the shadowy outline of Mount Scott in the near foreground.

This year's count totaled 111 species and 9,554 individuals. The most species recorded on a Christmas Bird Count was 115 species in 2007 and 2010. The most observed birds on this year's count were the dark-eyed Juncos, which numbered 1,096.

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