You will recall the Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) are an annual event that encourages us to get outdoors, in a specified area, on specified dates, to find as many kinds and numbers of birds possible on that day. Sponsored in part by Bird Studies Canada, thousands of counts are run every year across the world.
This marks the 118th year these counts have been done, starting in 1899, when “counting” meant shooting as many of the birds as possible! It’s way better now, since we actually do count them and then let them live!
Locally there are counts in Uxbridge on December 27th and Beaverton on December 30th. Other nearby counts include Pickering and Oshawa, so lots of opportunities exist for you to become as involved as you like. Can’t make those dates? Well there are many others to choose from, during the period of December 14th to January 5th, inclusive. And NO, you don’t have to be a bird expert.
Each group will have experienced birdwatchers leading it. All you have to do is show up, spot birds, and have fun!
Each count takes place in an established 15 mile wide diameter circle, and is organized by a count compiler. Count volunteers follow specified routes through the designated circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.
Have mobility issues or just don’t want to go outdoors? If your home is within the boundaries of a CBC circle, then you can stay at home and report the birds that visit your bird feeder on the count day, as long as you have made prior arrangement with the count compiler. Check out this website for more information: http://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count
Another great way to help out is to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is an annual event that runs for a short period of time, on February 16th to 19th, in 2018, and you register online, at http://mailchi.mp/cornell/gbbc-enews-countdown-to-the-2018-great-backyard-bird-count?bblinkid=73514654&bbemailid=6148672&bbejrid=473157895 and then you’re in.
Simply watch birds at a location you choose, not necessarily your backyard by the way, for 15 minutes or more during that time period and enter your sightings online or via your phone. Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like; one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day, for each new location, or for the same location if you counted at a different time of day. Estimate the number of individuals of each species you saw during your count period. That’s all!
Last year, 29,574,634 individual birds were reported worldwide, with 181,299 checklists entered, representing 6,240 species of birds … incredible, that’s half of all the species in the world. Wow!
Okay, still not enough for you? How about joining Project FeederWatch, run by Bird Studies Canada, from November to early April. You can spend as much or as little time as you like counting birds, but you do it at your own home. The schedule is completely flexible. You set the pace, you do as much or as little as you want, but, you do need to work a bit, as your data has to be entered online and you do have to spend time periodically monitoring what’s coming to your feeders and when.
What happens to the information we collect? The data is stored electronically and made available to Citizen Scientists and researchers across the globe. Myriad projects rely on this data as a historical foundation, for assessing the health of specific species and the environment.
So there you have it. Lots of choices whereby you can both amuse yourself and do something good for nature at the same time. Before you know it, winter will be over and we can start enjoying our returning migrants. I hope you all have a fun and wildlife-filled Christmas and winter!
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, ecotour guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.