Christmas bird count turns 106 

Whistler count to use updated list

Understanding what makes our feathered friends tick is more than a life’s work. Since 1900, the now international National Audubon Society has been drawing attention to birds and the issues that affect various species. They wanted to understand where birds live, where migratory birds nest, and where migratory birds spend their winter months.

This year will mark the 106 th anniversary of the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas bird count. Some 55,000 volunteers in every province and all 50 U.S. states, as well as bird watchers in Central and South American, Bermuda, the West Indies and Pacific Islands, will use the day to count and record every bird and bird species seen in a specified area.

That data, along with unusual sightings and reports, is sent to Audubon headquarters, where it will be used to analyze trends in bird populations and migrations, as well as to spot species that may be in danger of extinction. For example, changes to migration patterns can suggest changes to climate, with later winters and earlier springs altering the movement of birds.

The period between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 is used for the count because the leaves are off the trees in most areas, and most migratory species have usually moved on. As a result, bird counts more accurately record resident birds, while allowing counters to more easily spot anomalies.

Last year about 70 million birds were counted by over 2,022 count groups, including 355 groups in Canada.

Whistler’s count, which is held by the Whistler Naturalists Society and led by experienced local birders, found just 44 species, about 2,200 of which were gulls spotted at the landfill.

With the landfill now closed, count organizers are expecting to tally far fewer birds this year.

There are also counts in Squamish, Pemberton, D’Arcy and Lillooet, as well as around the Lower Mainland and in the Bowen Islands, giving a good snapshot of bird numbers and activity for the region.

With input from local birders, notably Michael Thompson and Karl Ricker, the Checklist of Whistler Birds, first published my Max Gotz, was recently updated. The list has been expanded from 175 species to almost 250, and according to Ricker it’s already out of date after rare owls were reported on Flute.

As always the Naturalists are looking for volunteers to help out with the annual Christmas Bird Count. The count is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14, with nine groups heading to several different areas inside the municipality, including Whistler and Blackcomb, to count birds and species.

You don’t need to be an expert to take part, just have warm clothes and good eyes – the experienced birders leading each group will help to identify exact species once in the field.

All of the groups and feeder watchers will break at 4 p.m. for the after party at Mike Thompson’s house.

If you wish to join a party or watch a feeder, contact Karl Ricker at 604-938-1107 or Mike Thompson at 604-932-5010. Last minute participants should be at Ricker’s house by 8 a.m. on count day at 3253 Archibald Way.

If you can’t make it out to join the count, the organizers will also be recruiting people to watch their feeders over the course of the day. Bird feeder watchers are required in Creekside, Nordic, Bear Creek, Bayshores, Twin Lakes, Millar’s Pond, Spring Creek, Kadenwood, Alta Vista, Brio, Blueberry Hill, White Gold, Spruce Grove, Emerald, Benchlands, Alpine Meadows and Function Junction.

Other counts in the corridor:

Pemberton-Mt. Currie Count – Dec. 15. Meet at the Pemberton Steak House at 7:30 a.m. or contact Hugh Naylor at 604-894-6402.

D’Arcy-Devine Count – Dec. 16. Meet at the gas station at 8 a.m. or contact Dan Cummings at 604-452-3453.

Squamish Count – Dec. 18. Meet at Brackendale Art Gallery at 7:30 a.m. or contact Marcia Danielson at 604-898-9402.

Lillooet Count – Dec. 26. Contact Dr. Ian Routhey at 250-256-4062.

Outer How Sound Count (Mainland) – Dec. 28. Contact Marya De Jong at 604-921-3382.

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