Naturespeak 

Whistler’s Christmas Bird Count set for Dec. 15, 2008

The annual Christmas Bird Count, Whistler’s 18 th , is scheduled for Dec. 15 th , a Monday, one day later than usual in order to accommodate the Squamish count scheduled for the 14 th — the first day allowed for the counts anywhere on the continent.

Yes, there are rules for Christmas Bird Counts, set by the Audubon Society and followed by Bird Studies Canada, the coordinating arm for all of the counts in Canada. There are about 85 count centres in British Columbia, and the Sea to Sky Corridor has eight, spanning Highway 99 from the islands of outer Howe Sound, including Horseshoe Bay, through to Cache Creek on the north end.

Volunteers are needed for all counts, recognition of bird species ability or not.   Eyes and ears, and dressed for the weather, are the required components.   Knowledgeable party leaders will do the identifications once the birds are found.

Whistler’s long-term average on this count usually varies from 40-45 species, with 2,500-3,000 birds in total, provided the weather is favourable — last year it was not so!

Whistler Naturalists Society is the host for the event, organizing nine field parties that will comb the valley bottom from the new Nordic Centre in the Callaghan to as far as Shadow Lake. Two parties will also be on Whistler-Blackcomb and one party will have the luxury of the coffee shop run through the town centre and the Blackcomb base area.

Over the years, 93 species have been seen on Christmas Bird Counts at Whistler; missing from all censuses but should be here is the elusive Townsend’s solitaire, a close relative of the robin. Owls have been sparingly seen or heard but we keep trying, with a two-hour night session hoping to snag a Great horned owl, or better yet, a Great gray owl.

For those skiing citizens who will be on the slopes on the day of our count, we ask you to keep a sharp eye out for ptarmigan and grouse. If you are so lucky, please phone 604-932-5010 or 604-938-1107 as soon as possible with the following info: species, numbers of, what ski run, time of the day and your name. Every solid observation helps at Whistler, where birds are hard to find in winter.

For the designated field parties vollies should call Michael Thompson (604-932-5010 any time before 9 p.m., or Karl Ricker (604-938-1107) between Dec. 7 th and 14 th . Field parties will wind up the day with a countdown party, food and refreshments served while the data is re-compiled to see if the targets were met. Birds not seen on count day, but seen three days before or after, are also added to the list as incidentals, duly reported to Bird Studies Canada as well.

For the counts in the corridor, and if you can help, here is the rundown:

§ Dec. 14 th : Squamish (Marcia Danielson, 604-898-9420)

§ Dec. 15 th : Whistler (as noted above)

§ Dec. 17 th : Pemberton-Mt. Currie (Hugh Naylor, 604-894-6402 or John Tschoff 894-6902)

§ Dec. 18 th : D’Arcy-Devine (Dan Cumming, 604-452-3453)

§ Dec. 20 th : Hat Creek Valley (Ken Wright, 250-571-5557)

§ Dec. 22 nd : Ashcroft-Cache Creek (Karl Ricker, 604-938-1107 or 250-523-9935)

§ Dec. 28 th : Lillooet (Vivian Birch-Jones, 250-256-4062 or K. Wright, 250-571-5557)

So, don’t be shy, volunteer your eyes, and at the end of the day there is bound to be a surprise!

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