If watching birds holds any interest for you, join in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Council Sat., Dec. 15 either by joining a field group or watching them in your backyard and reporting in.
Organized by Chris Charlesworth in the Kelowna area, the day’s efforts will begin pre-dawn with some owling by avid members of the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club’s birding group.
It will continue after daybreak with a number of groups, probably 50 people or so, organized to cover the entire area during the day.
Charlesworth says the count circle, 24 kilometres centred at Highway 97 and Ellis Street, extends from Blue Grouse Mountain in the northwest to the south end of Ellison Lake in the northeast, and from Gallagher’s Canyon in the southeast to Powers Creek in West Kelowna in the southwest.
This year, they’re confident they will be able to include some Snowy Owls, since a number of them have been spotted in this area due to a cyclical shortage of the small mammals they feed on in northern areas.
Many of the big birds are nearly starving because of the lack of their normal feed and they’ve had to migrate south to search for better pickings.
Most years, Charlesworth says, they’re lucky to count one or two during the Christmas Bird Count.
There’s also a Double-crested Cormorant hanging around the Bennett Bridge, a species that’s rarely spotted in the Okanagan, particularly during the dead of winter, he noted, so they’re hoping to spot it on count day.
Blue Jays have also been spotted in the Mission and Glenmore areas, he said. These are not the more common resident Steller’s Jays, but a lighter-blue and white jay more common in the east.
Charlesworth said if the weather stays on the warm side, ponds and other bodies of water will still be open, which means more birds will be counted and a wider variety of birds.
If you’d like to participate in a field group, contact him at 718-0335 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For those interested in participating in the Feeder Watch program, the contact this year is Denise Brownlie, who can be reached at 717-1809 or at: email@example.com with your total number of birds sighted on count day.
Charlesworth advises you to count individual species during the day, but only count the highest number of any one species from the day for your final tally.
For instance, if you see 10 House Finches at 9 a.m., and eight at 10 a.m., only use the 10, so you’re not counting any twice.
Either phone or e-mail her at the end of the day with your final tallies.
You will be part of the 113th year that the CBC has been conducted throughout the Americas during the Christmas/New Years period.
Results are used to help determine trends in bird populations, to assess the health of populations and guide conservation efforts.
It’s the longest-running citizen science survey in the world.