Avid birders Liam Singh, left, and Rick Schortinghuis look out over Esquimalt Lagoon while on an outing with the Victoria Natural History Society. The annual Christmas Bird Count takes place on Saturday, Dec. 16 in Victoria, Langford and Colwood beginning at 8 a.m. There are also counts on Sunday, Dec. 17 and in Metchosin and Sooke on Thursday, Dec. 28. (Ann Nightingale photo)

Bird watchers gear up for annual count

Count takes place in Langford, Colwood, Victoria, North and Central Saanich

It’s a special time of year for Ann Nightingale – and not just because it’s the holidays.

December marks the beginning of the Christmas Bird Count in Greater Victoria. As part of the annual count, hundreds of residents head out into the community, including areas on the West Shore, to count the number and species of birds.

“There are over 50,000 people who participate in the Christmas Bird Count [across North America],” said Nightingale, a Central Saanich resident and self-proclaimed “bird nerd,” who has been involved in the count for the past two decades. “I’m always excited about it. It’s so great to see so many people in the community come out and participate.”

RELATED: Birders prep for Christmas count

The count originally started in 1900 by Frank Chapman who wanted to see an alternative to the traditional Christmas hunt in which hunters went out and shot as many animal as they could – the majority of which were birds. Chapman wanted to maintain the competitiveness, but not at the expense of killing animals, and thus the Christmas Bird Count was born.

Locally, the Victoria bird count has been taking place since the 1950s. Volunteers are split into teams and assigned to cover a 15 kilometre diameter circle.

Last year, more than 200 birders across the region counted 75,000 birds. On the West Shore, hot spot bird-counting areas include Triangle Mountain, Esquimalt Lagoon, Mill Hill, Alberta Head and Langford Lake.

RELATED: Christmas bird count a West Shore holiday tradition

The count also allows bird-watchers to keep track of local populations. Nightingale said there are a number of birds that were counted in the region years ago, but are rarely seen now, such as the city and ruffed grouse, black scooter and western screech owls. But there are some that are starting to reappear such as the white sprouted sparrow, swan sparrows, Anna’s hummingbird and the barn owl.

On occasion rare birds can also be seen, such as the red wing or the turdus iliacus, that was spotted in the Strawberry Vale area in 2015, which Nightingale said normally lives in Europe and Asia and seems to have its “compass turned around,” and instead of flying south west for the winter, has been flying south east.

“When I’m out birding, I am connected to the environment. I feel like I am where I belong, sharing the space with the plants and animals that call that place home,” Nightingale said.

“I know that when I’m looking at the birds, they are looking back at me. If by recognizing and counting the birds, I can contribute to conserving them, so much the better.”

The Christmas Bird Count takes place on Saturday, Dec. 16 in Victoria, Langford and Colwood beginning at 8 a.m. There are also counts in Sidney, Central and North Saanich, and South Salt Spring on Sunday, Dec. 17, and in Metchosin and Sooke on Thursday, Dec. 28.

For more information or to volunteer with the count visit christmasbirdcount.ca or email victoriacbc@naturevictoria.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Sex workers march in downtown Victoria for Red Umbrella Day

Red umbrellas became a symbol of sex workers after an art installation in Italy

MLA Adam Olsen calls for ‘substantial’ changes in provincial economy

Green Party MLA also criticizes gap between government rhetoric and actions

500 pounds of turkey served at Cool Aid community Christmas dinner

Annual dinner serves hundreds of community members

VIDEO: Annual Tuba Christmas concert draws large crowd to Market Square

Over 100 tuba and euphonium players gathered to play festive tunes

Revisit Christmas past as Point Ellice House displays Victorian-era traditions

Antique bobbles, cards, decor and more are on display

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Most Read