JOPLIN, Mo. — Believe it or not — the first local Christmas event of 2023 is now just days away.

The annual Kid’s Christmas Bird Count will take place Saturday morning at the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center in Joplin.

It’s put on by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Ozark Gateway Chapter of the Audubon Society.

The 3-hour session, for youngsters between the ages of 7 and 17, is designed to get them better connected to — and educated about — the local bird populations.

“Birding is really a great gateway opportunity to get kids interested in the outdoors, so once you start introducing birds, you know, they might noticing other things like what kind of plants they see, what kinds of trees they see. We want them to get outdoors and enjoy the outdoors. It’s called the Christmas Bird Count ’cause it takes place in the winter time which, you know, the original purpose for that was for better viewing of the birds. They’re easier to spot when the leaves are gone,” said Kensi Tillman, MDC Naturalist.

Saturday’s event is free — and runs from 9 AM to noon.

Registration is required. That can be done through this MDC link here.