Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count 2009

CARLETON PLACE AND AREA BIRDERS TO TAKE PART IN
110th ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT

Birders and nature enthusiasts in Carleton Place and area will join birders across the western hemisphere and participate in Audubon’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), to be held on December 27th. This year, over 2,000 individual counts are scheduled to take place throughout the Americas and beyond from December 14, 2009 to January 5, 2010.

“Each CBC volunteer observer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation,” says Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada’s Christmas Bird Count Coordinator. “Bird Studies Canada and our partners at the National Audubon Society in the United States, rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations across North America.” During last year’s count, about 70 million birds were tallied by nearly 58,000 volunteers across the continent, which was a record number of observers. In Canada, 11,565 participants counted over 3.2 million birds on a record-high 371 counts.

The data gathered by all this work goes into a huge database used daily by biologists all over the world to monitor the populations and distribution of North American birds. Some of it is key evidence for serious declines; recently Christmas Bird Count data provided pivotal information in the decision to list the Newfoundland Red Crossbill and Rusty Blackbird under the federal Species At Risk Act.

The CBC began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the “side hunt,” a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, Chapman proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort – and a more than century-old institution.

Since Chapman’s retirement in 1934, new generations of observers have performed the modern-day count. Today, over 55,000 volunteers from all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands, count and record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area.

The 110th CBC is expected to be larger than ever, expanding its geographical coverage and accumulating information about the winter distributions of various birds. The CBC is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere, and the data, which are 100% volunteer generated, have become a crucial part of Canada’s natural history monitoring database.

The Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count takes place on Sunday, December 27th and it is organized by Iain Wilkes, who is also the official Carleton Place compiler for BSC and Georgina Doe co-ordinates all of the feeder counts. Volunteers are welcomed and you don’t need to be an expert but it helps to know the local birds. Participants will be placed in a team led by an experienced birder. You will need a pair of binoculars, a hot thermos and lunch. There is a $5 participation fee levied for each counter. For more information or to register, contact Iain Wilkes, 257-1126 or Home residents with bird feeders can also help by listing all birds at your feeder or in your yard on the count day. Feeder counters should register with Georgina Doe, 257-2103.

At the end of the day, count teams return to the Community Room upstairs at Steve’s Independent in Carleton Place on McNeely Avenue for the count-in as well as refreshments. We look forward to the December 27th count and best of the season to all.

-Iain Wilkes