Time is nigh to count birds

Birders in the Comox Valley will join birders across the western hemisphere and participate in the annual Christmas bird counts.

Birders and nature enthusiasts in the Comox Valley will join birders across the western hemisphere and participate in North America’s longest-running wintertime birding tradition, the annual Christmas bird counts (CBC).

This year, over 2,200 individual counts are scheduled to take place throughout the Americas and beyond from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5.

Three Christmas bird counts take place in the Comox Valley: the Deep Bay count Dec. 14 (contact Bill Stewart at 250-338-1855); the Comox count Dec. 18  (contact Carol Muirhead at 250-331-0511); and the Little River/Powell River ferry count Dec. 29 (contact Art Martell at 250-334-2979).

For the Comox count Dec. 18, teams of birders organized by the Comox Valley Naturalists Society (CVNS) will be out from dawn till dusk counting within a 24-km radius of the old Comox Post Office. If you have bird feeders in your back yard, and live within this radius, the CVNS welcome your participation.

You can phone in with your highest count of each species, seen at one time that day, in your yard. Do not count the same bird visitors more than once.

Call Isobel at 250-339-4559 on the 18th to report your bird counts.

Bird Studies Canada and Audubon partners rely on data from the CBC database for a myriad of analyses regarding both bird conservation and climate change.

During last year’s count, about 61 million birds were tallied in 2,215 locations by over 62,000 volunteers, the number of both locations and observers a record level of participation. In Canada, almost 12,000 participants in 394 counts found 3.3 million birds.

The CBC began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the “side hunt,” a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals.

Instead, Chapman proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort — and a more than century-old institution.

The first Comox CBC was conducted by Alan Brooks on Dec. 24, 1919, and it has been run continuously by the Comox Valley Naturalists since 1961.

The 112th CBC is expected to be larger than ever, expanding its geographical coverage and accumulating information about the winter distributions of various birds. The CBC is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere, and the data, which are 100 per cent volunteer generated, have become a crucial part of Canada’s biodiversity monitoring database.

For more information about CBC participation, visit Bird Studies Canada’s website at www.bsc-eoc.org/volunteer/cbc and click on the Find a Count Near You link on the right-hand side of the page.

CBC compilers enter their count data via Audubon’s website at  www.christmasbirdcount.org, where the 112th count results will be viewable in near real-time.

— Comox Valley Naturalists Society