The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 1, 2014

Hiking, cycling, bird counts become popular traditions to launch the new year

PITTSBURG, Kan. — In Southeast Kansas, residents took advantage of warmer-than-normal weather on New Year’s Day to hike, fish, bike and join a “citizen science” project to gather data on bird species.

“It was a good day,” Delia Lister said Wednesday afternoon. “So far, we have seen 38 species. We have seen three loggerhead shrikes, and we saw three bald eagles. That was nice.”

Lister is the director of Nature Reach at Pittsburg State University and also the field trip coordinator for the Sperry-Galligar Audubon Society, the Southeast Kansas chapter of the National Audubon Society.

Lister said 18 people met at 7 a.m. Wednesday in Scammon to participate in the Christmas Bird Count, which is part of a nationwide Audubon effort that is in its 114th year.

A similar bird count was held last weekend in Joplin, Mo.

Data collected during the counts is used by researchers and conservation biologists to study the long-term health and status of bird populations, migration patterns and more.

“I felt like an icicle in years past when I got home,” Lister said. “Today is not so bad.”

Temperatures climbed into the 50s early in the day before a cold front arrived.

Becky Gray also was out and about, conducting her own New Year’s Day hike.

“We went to some state land in Cherokee County, south of West Mineral,” she said. “It was a good day to be out there. We ran across a lot of those bird counters.

“We are pretty lucky to have access to all that public land,” she said, referring to the Mined Land Wildlife Area in Cherokee, Crawford and Labette counties. “I don’t want to take it for granted.”

The Mined Land Wildlife Area is also a fishing hot spot, having produced numerous state record fish for Kansas. Gray said she and her group tried their hand at fishing, too, but “there was nothing biting.”

Other hikers joined organized First Day Hikes at Prairie, Stockton and Roaring River state parks in Southwest Missouri, and at Devil’s Den and Hobbs state parks in Northwest Arkansas. The First Day Hikes have become a New Year’s Day tradition, with tens of thousands of people expected to participate at more than 700 parks around the country on Wednesday.

Roger Lomshek, owner of Tailwind Cyclists in Pittsburg, organized a bicycle ride that drew seven people Wednesday. Some opted for shorter 30-mile routes, while others tackled a 100-mile route known as a Century Ride.

The ride was a way to “put a stamp on the new year,” Lomshek said.

The riders were grateful for the relatively warm weather and sunshine early in the day.

“We have only had one or two years that were any better,” Lomshek said.

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