On Saturday, Jan. 2 the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment is hosting Whistler's Christmas Bird Count. It's an annual event co-ordinated through the National Audubon Society and held at 1,700 locations across North America. Bird counters will be collecting important scientific data that provides a benchmark about the health of our environment. Birds are often the first species to be affected by changes in the natural environment. By keeping track of the population of each species man’s impact on the environment can be gauged. Volunteers will set out from Whistler in three directions. The valley bottom section will be patrolled on foot, the ski areas will be monitored by people on alpine skis, telemark or snowboard gear and the major side valleys explored by people on cross-country or touring equipment. Groups will cover as much ground as possible and record every individual bird and bird species encountered. The event has been running since 1900. That was the year ornithologist Frank Chapman and 27 of his companions, disturbed by a traditional holiday bird shooting competition, decided that collecting bird data would be a good way of protesting the event. The bird count has been an annual event ever since. At the end of the day in Whistler volunteers will get together for a bird "countdown" and celebrate the day’s work. The data collected will be sent to the New York headquarters of the National Audubon Society and published in the New Year. Beginners are warmly invited to participate in the Whistler bird count. They'll be matched up with more experienced birders to learn all the tricks of the birding trade. For more information or to sign up, contact Max Gotz at 932-7247.