This Hawk Owl hunts for prey along Highway 20

44th annual Christmas bird count on Dec. 18

Bird counts provide essential data for conservation.

Bird counts provide essential data for conservation.

Birders and nature enthusiasts in Williams Lake will join birders across the western hemisphere and participate in North America’s longest-running wintertime birding tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), held on Sunday, Dec. 18.

This year, more than 2,200 individual counts are scheduled to take place throughout the Americas and beyond from Dec. 14, 2011 to Jan. 5, 2012.

“Each CBC volunteer observer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation,” says Dick Cannings, the Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird Count co-ordinator.  “Bird Studies Canada and our partners at Audubon rely on data from the CBC database to inform 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 more than 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 more than 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.

Since Chapman’s retirement in 1934, new generations of observers have performed the modern-day count.

Today, more than 60,000 volunteers from all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands, count and record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area.

The 112th CBC and the 44th conducted by the Williams Lake Field Naturalists 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 participation in the Williams Lake CBC, call Phil Ranson at 250-398-7110. If you have a bird feeder within the count circle and can get an estimate of the numbers of birds on count day, call Fred McMechan at 250-398-7110 after 6 p.m. on  Dec. 18.

 

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