Participants keep a weather eye for flying fowl at the overlook in Qualicum Beach during the annual Parksville Qualicum Beach Christmas Bird Count. This year’s count takes place Dec. 17. — NEWS file photo

Volunteers needed for Parksville Qualicum Beach bird count

Data used to study the health of winter bird populations

Volunteers are needed to count birds on Sunday, Dec. 17, for the 27th Parksville Qualicum Beach Christmas Bird Count. Birders can count their backyard flock for the feeder count, or choose to join a team in the field.

Bird and winter enthusiasts across the continent are gearing up for the 118th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season. This winter birding tradition took root in 1900, making it North America’s longest-running citizen science project, said Sandra Gray, local count co-ordinator for Arrowsmith Naturalists, in a written release.

Each year, upwards of 2,000 counts in the Western Hemisphere are conducted by volunteer groups on a day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.

Last year in Canada alone, 14,000 participants counted more than three million individual birds of 287 species, in 447 counts across the country. Ninety-six count circles were completed across British Columbia, with 2,816 field observers and 640 feeder counters taking part. Data collected by dedicated CBCers are used to study the health of winter bird populations and guide conservation strategies to help birds and their habitats, said Gray.

The BCPQ Count takes place from midnight to midnight. Teams of three to seven birders will search the pastures, marshes, shoreline, forests and urban neighborhoods within the 24km-diameter BCPQ count circle, centred near French Creek marina.

Backyard habitats will be covered by the many feeder counters who keep local resident and winter bird guests well fed. A feeder count checklist, with instructions, may be picked up at Buckerfields in Parksville.

A very helpful and necessary group of participants are the numerous private landowners and facility managers who allow entry to their large acreages to count birds, said Gray.

This entry gives the birders expansive views of agricultural fields, access to private ponds and barns and a few conservation areas with restricted entry.

CBC historical records and a variety of information is available at: www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count.

— Submitted by Sandra Gray/ Arrowsmith Naturalists

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