Christmas bird count includes rare sighting in Chilliwack

A long-eared owl was caught on camera in the woods near Chilliwack, and will be included in the official Christmas Bird Count.

Janet Pollack found this long-eared owl in the woods on the Christmas Bird Count day in Chilliwack. It's considered a rare sighting

Janet Pollack found this long-eared owl in the woods on the Christmas Bird Count day in Chilliwack. It's considered a rare sighting

Deep snow kept a lot of the fair-weather walkers and hikers out of the woods and off trails in December. And that may be what led to Janet Pollack’s rare sighting of a long-eared owl on Dec. 17.

“The deep snow and cold discouraged the usual walkers from tramping around in the woods, so the area was very quiet and undisturbed,” she says. “I guess that is why this long-eared owl was so close.”

It was a serendipitous event, Pollack explains, because Dec. 17 was the official Chilliwack Christmas Bird Count day. And because the two events lined up, Pollack was able to record the sighting and report it to Bird Studies Canada.

But Pollack’s long-eared owl was just one of about 95 species spotted that day, says Denis Knopp, a wildlife surveyor and member of the Chilliwack Field Naturalists. He says Pollack was among about 30 official counters that day, and he’s still compiling a full list of all the species spotted that day.

Counts were also held along Harrison River and Abbotsford in December. The results of the counts will eventually be available on the Chilliwack Field Naturalists website.

The Christmas Bird Count began more than century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, they 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 to identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the most significant citizen-based conservation effort and a more than century-old institution.

They are carried out in communities across North America.