By: Michael Thompson
Date: December 6, 2002
The Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC), now consisting of about 1800 local counts involving over 50,000 people, was started in the year 1900 as a replacement for a then current Christmas “Side Hunt”. The count sounds like a much better idea! Of the 25 local counts held in that first year, two were in Canada. Our country continues to be an active participant – in fact, for 1999 the three communities with the most participants in North America were North Bay, Edmonton, and Victoria! Since 2000, all Canadian results are coordinated by Bird Studies Canada before being forwarded to the Audubon people.
The CBC is generally accepted as the best, if not the only, tool available for assessing long-term trends in the early winter bird populations of North America. Its primary objective is to monitor the status and distribution of bird populations across the Western Hemisphere. The timing is intended to aid in identifying populations of resident, rather than migratory, birds. While not perfect, this strategy has worked quite well.
Each local count group, in our case the Whistler Naturalists Society, selects a specific day between December 14 and January 5 inclusive, sets out a 24 kilometre diameter circle, then does its best to count all the birds within that circle on that day. From hundreds of groups, a huge database is made is made available to the national bird agencies for each country. They can be accessed through a couple of websites: www.bsc-eoc.org/national/cbcmain.html for Canada and www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/> in the U.S. The Canadian national contact is Dick Cannings, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The highest count for Whistler occurred in 1999, when 62 species were reported com-prising 5243 individual birds. Karl Ricker, who now manages the event, has published the local results from 1990 to 2001. The national and international situations can be reviewed on the above-noted websites.
An important aspect of the count is the FeederWatch component. People not wishing to brave the elements can observe bird numbers and species at their own feeders. In order not to count repeated visits by the same bird, only the highest number seen at any given instant is con-sidered. There is also a secondary opportunity called “Count Week”, defined as the seven days centred on Count Day. The results are interesting but do not affect the Christmas Bird Count as such. They do, at least, relieve to some degree the frustration felt by having made exciting observations a day or two before or after Count Day, during which twenty-four period these wonderfully uncommon birds are totally absent!
Regional Christmas Bird Counts are:
Squamish – December 14 – Brackendale Art Gallery – 7:00 AM
– Linda Dupuis (604) 898-4770
Pemberton – December 15 – Pony Espresso – 7:00 AM
– Hugh Naylor (604) 894-6402
Dan Cumming –December 17 -Dan Cumming (604) 452-3453
-Peg Perfectt (604) 452-5556
Whistler – December 21 – Karl Ricker (604) 938-1107
Lillooet – December 29 – Ken Wright (250) 256-4702
More pairs of eyes are always needed and welcome. Teams are led by experienced birders, so no one will be left on their own. We all run the risk that we might learn something. Besides, there is usually an “apres-bird” reporting and relaxing session!