It’s that time of year again. As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder and wetter it’s time to start thinking about this year’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Started over 100 years ago as an alternative to the “side hunt” (which had an objective of shooting as many birds as possible) the CBC aimed to count the birds instead of killing them. Founder Frank Chapman’s reasoning was that over-hunting would eventually lead to significant declines in bird populations. If you’re on Vancouver Island over the holidays and want to try something a little different consider joining a group of dedicated birders and count birds.
Odds are the weather is going to be nasty so you’ll need to be well prepared. If you don’t have full wet weather wear make a trip to Mark’s Work Warehouse and get a set of waterproof pants and jacket. Goretex usually isn’t good enough. Think oilskin – commercial fisherman gear. A thermos of spiked coffee is another good way to keep warm as long as you aren’t driving.
How does the Christmas Bird Count work? This year counts will take place between December 14, 2010 and January 5, 2011. On the day of the count in your area, birders will spend 24 hours tallying both species and numbers of birds in a count circle (a circle 24 km in diameter). The count circle is broken into smaller areas that are counted by a team of birders. Generally, most counters start at, or just before, sunrise and continue through until they are frozen stiff, or sunset, which ever comes first.
The data collected during the CBC is useful. Since the count provides a snapshot of the number and kind of birds in the count circle it can be compared with previous counts in order to identify overall population trends.
CBCs are also a great way to meet fellow nature lovers and learn to identify some of the birds in your area. You don’t have to be a birder to participate since recorders are always needed and every extra person on a team can contribute by spotting birds. There is also a competitive aspect to CBCs as teams vie for the most number of species recorded and the rarest/most unusual bird of the count.
Here are some of the counts taking place on Vancouver Island this winter. I’ll add additional counts when I’ve got the dates. If you can’t make it to Vancouver Island this year look for a count in your own area – you’ll have a lot of fun and have some great stories to tell.
Christmas Bird Counts on Vancouver Island 2010/11:
- Wednesday, December 15 – Deep Bay CBC (contact Bill Stewart at 250-338-1855 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Friday, December 17 – Nanoose Bay/Lantzville CBC (contact Rhys Harrison at email@example.com)
- Saturday, December 18 – Victoria CBC (contact Ann Nightingale 250-652-6450 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Sunday, December 19 – Comox CBC (contact Carol Muirhead at 250-331-0511 or email@example.com)
- Sunday, December 19 – Parksville/Qualicum Beach CBC (contact Sandra Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Sunday, December 26 – Sooke CBC (contact Daniel Bryant at 250-361-9049 or email@example.com)
- Monday, December 27 – South Salt Spring Island/Sidney CBC (contact Karen Feguson at firstname.lastname@example.org (Salt Spring Island) or email@example.com (Sidney))
- Monday, December 27 – North Salt Spring Island/Galiano CBC (contact Michael Hoebel at 50-539-2003 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Thursday, December 30 – Little River/Powell River Ferry CBC (contact Art Martell at 250-334-2979 or email@example.com)
- Saturday, January 1 – Duncan CBC (contact 250-748-8504 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Sunday, January 2 – Campbell River CBC (contact Luisa Richardson at 250-923-9918 or Lu_rich@shaw.ca)