A dark-eyed Oregon junco in a backyard tree. (Michael Hoffmann photo)

A dark-eyed Oregon junco in a backyard tree. (Michael Hoffmann photo)

Chilliwack Christmas Bird Count contributes crucial data on how birds are faring

Chilliwack event set to go Monday, Dec. 27 after being postponed due to snowstorm

With bird populations plummeting worldwide, the 2021 Christmas Bird Count is more important than ever.

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) gets underway on Monday, Dec. 27 in Chilliwack.

The Chilliwack count was postponed to Dec. 27 after the Dec. 18 count had to be cancelled at the last minute due to the snowstorm, according to Denis Knopp, co-ordinator of the Chilliwack Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

The annual count sees citizen scientists recording the number birds of each species that they see or hear within a 24-kilometre diameter circle, or counting visitors to the backyard bird-feeder.

There are usually some rare bird sightings each year, with some considered rarer than others, according to Knopp.

What rare species does he hope to check off his list this year?

“I would like to see a white-tailed ptarmigan on the Harrison River count, and a eared grebe on the Chilliwack one,” Knopp said, speaking before the Dec. 14 Harrison count.

The count observations are used to study the health of winter bird populations and guide conservation strategies to help birds.

Surveying the same 24-km circle year after year contributes valuable long-term information on how winter birds are faring in that region. The Chilliwack circle spans from Cultus Lake in the south, to Deroche and Harrison Bay in the north. The western boundary enters the east end of Vedder Mountain and all of the Bert Brink Wildlife Management Area. The easternmost sections reach almost to the centre of Rosedale, most of Slesse Trailer Park and the peak of Elk Mountain.

“Every Christmas Bird Count participant is an important part of this valuable project for birds,” says Yousif Attia, Birds Canada’s CBC co-ordinator. “Whether you participate for bird conservation, for some friendly birding competition, or for an excuse to get outside in the winter, your efforts are meaningful for birds.”

The counts achieve “incredible results” that professional scientists and wildlife biologists could never accomplish alone, he said.

To participate as a feeder counter, they will count the species they see at the feeder, recording the highest number at any one time. So if they saw four black-capped chickadees at 10 a.m. and 6 at noon, they would record this as six black-capped chickadees.

The Christmas Bird Count took flight over a century ago when 27 birders in 25 locations from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California, led by ornithologist Frank Chapman, proposed a conservation-oriented alternative to the Christmas Day hunting competition, known as the “side hunt” to hunt the most birds and small mammals. This initiative to identify, count, and record all the birds found on Christmas Day 1900 has turned into one of North America’s longest-running wildlife monitoring programs.

The annual bird count runs between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, with thousands of birders and outdoor enthusiasts expected to participate in the 120th year of the event. Birds Canada and the National Audubon Society help coordinate and support the efforts of more than 2,500 counts throughout the Western Hemisphere.

For more details, bird lists, and to submit results, call Denis Knopp at 604-858-5141, or email bcwilddenis@uniserve.com.

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