Christmas Bird Count provides vital info on feathered friends

Shirley Coffin will be out with local bird watchers this weekend for the start of the annual Christmas Bird Count. - Sheri Regnier
Shirley Coffin will be out with local bird watchers this weekend for the start of the annual Christmas Bird Count.
— image credit: Sheri Regnier

Bird enthusiasts will unite and flock to areas in Greater Trail this weekend, to participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

This is the 113th year that the count will be conducted across North America, Latin America and the Caribbean between Dec. 14 and Jan 5.

Locally, the binocular brigades will be out in full force on Saturday.

“You don’t have to be an expert, as long as you can identify a few birds, said Linda Szymkowiak, CBC volunteer for eight years.

“All you need is a feeder, bird identification book, and a pair of binoculars.”

Birds are counted in a giant circle of territory, with most of the counting being done from the roadside.

Rossland has 40 volunteers, 30 of whom will participate in the comfort of their own backyards.

“We have people with backyard bird feeders, who can do the count that way, said Szymkowiak.

“Others count townside or strap on their snow shoes or skis and go into the back woods to do the count.”

Saturday will start at the break of light for Shirley Coffin, volunteer in charge of the Trail and Genelle count.

“As soon as it is light, I’ll go down to the esplanade and Gyro Park to count ducks and geese, she said.

“The land fill is a great spot, to count crows, ravens and wild turkeys.”

Winter bird populations have been fairly stable over the last few years, however, the overall trend is better indicated when analyzed over a period of 10 or more years, as opposed to year-to-year, said Szymkowiak.

“Birds such as finches, are dependent on seeds from conifer cones, and may fly all over B.C., she added.

“These are called irruptions, when birds migrate to areas where they aren’t typically found.”

In 2011 507 birds -- 37 different species -- were recorded in Greater Trail, covering most parks, bird feeders and other watering holes where birds might be found in Trail, Casino and Genelle.

In the Beaver Valley area south of Trail and east of the Columbia River, only 31 species were observed but 814 birds were noted.

The overall number for Greater Trail birds is around three quarters of what it used to be six years ago, last year’s organizer Arnold By told the Trail Times last January.

The annual bird count is the longest-running citizen science survey in the world, and the data collected by the counters is critical to study long term health and state of bird populations.

For many years, the CBC was organized on a continental scale by the National Audubon Society.

Since 2000, Bird Studies Canada has partnered with Audubon to coordinate counts in Canada. Scientists rely on the trend data of the CBC to better understand how birds and the environment are faring throughout North America.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Szymkowiak at 362-7107.

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