The National Audubon Society will host its 110 th Christmas Bird Count this year, a tradition that goes back all the way to 1900 when 27 observers set up watching posts in 25 areas of the U.S. and Canada. The purpose of the count, as always, is to identify and count bird species over a large geographic area to get a sense of each species' ranges, migration and the overall health of different birds.
Christmas was chosen because the leaves are off the trees in northern states and provinces, making the birds easier to see. As well, most birds will have completed their migration by this time to warmer climates. More than 50,000 bird watchers in 17 countries will take part, filing their observations with the National Audubon Society's annual census.
This year Whistler gave up its usual first date position in Sea to Sky because the D'arcy organization committee will be away for the holidays and had to move their count day up.
"Perhaps that will add a few late autumn migrants to their count, at our expense," said Karl Ricker, who participates in all of the Sea to Sky counts but pays special attention to his hometown of Whistler. "Our count this year might be hampered by Olympic preparations and closures of some local spots where counts have taken place in past years. So our usual average count of 43 species may be a very optimistic expectation."
Whistler will need roughly 15 volunteers to help out at this year's count, which takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 16. The ability to recognize different birds is an asset but not essential, and several volunteers can spend the day watching bird feeders rather than tramping around the woods watching and listening for different birds. Several volunteers also spend the day skiing in the alpine and looking for birds at lodges and along runs.
British Columbia has the fourth largest count of any region, behind Ontario, California and Texas.
"Obviously it has a wide appeal, is great exercise, and an excuse for an after party to tally up the count and have a few drinks to celebrate the results as well as Christmas season," said Ricker, while promising a special prize for any owl reports the night before the count.
Dec. 14 - D'arcy and Devine count. Contact: Dan Cumming, 604-452-3453
Dec. 16 - Whistler. Contact: Joan Plomske, 604-938-0623
Dec. 17 - Pemberton and Mt. Currie. Contact Hugh Naylor, 604-894-6402
Dec. 20 - Squamish. Contact: Marcia Danielson, 604-898-9420
Dec. 20 - Hat Creek. Contact: Ken Wright, 250-256-4822
Dec. 27 - Lillooet. Contact: Dr. Ian Routley, 250-256-4062