(A few flocks of the Bohemian Waxwing were seen during last year’s bird count. They’re up in the northwest for the summer, then descend upon crabapples and other fruit trees in the winter in the south. Photo: Tobi Kiesewalter.)
Do you have a bird feeder in your yard and a few hours to spare on December 18th? The annual Stittsville-Richmond-Munster Christmas Bird Count is coming up. You could contribute to North America’s longest-running community science project. All you have to do is watch birds at your feeder for a couple of hours over the course of the day.
Over the next few weeks, tens of thousands of volunteers will survey thousands of 24.14km diameter circles across the continent. Stittsville is just one of these counts. Volunteers walk or drive designated routes over the course of 24 hours while others keep watch over their bird feeders. Nina Stavlund is leading a dedicated group of volunteers and is coordinating the Stittsville circle. Tobi Kiesewalter is coordinating the field observers and feeder watchers in the Stittsville sector. He’ll make sure field observers stay away from the area around each participant’s house to ensure birds are not double-counted.
Every year since 1900, thousands of volunteers get together on a specific day in late December or early January to count birds in a specific count circle. Christmas Bird Counts are a long-running community science initiative that has produced some valuable information on trends in bird populations across North America. For more information, check out the website for the National Audubon Society, which coordinates the annual Christmas Bird Count. Last year in Ontario alone, there were over 100 count circles, 3,000 field observers, and 1,400 bird feeder watchers. They recorded over 1.1 million birds and 177 species.
“You’ve probably heard of the ‘canary in the coal mine’ saying. Birds are excellent indicators of the health of our environment. The one-day count gives a great seasonal snapshot of bird distribution across the continent. The sheer numbers of volunteers and counts happening provides a massive amount of data that scientists can harvest to help determine environmental trends. Scientists have already used this 121-year old dataset to look at the effects of climate change, for example,” Tobi explains. “There’s probably less than 15 species of bird that feeder watchers in Stittsville will see in the winter so it’s easier to get involved. Summer bird community science projects require volunteers to be able to identify over 100 species.”
If you have bird feeders up and you’re able to commit a few hours to watching them on December 18th, contact Tobi Kiesewalter at email@example.com before December 17th.