Contribute to citizen science during the annual Christmas Bird Count in the Kawarthas

Help assess the health of bird populations during counts in Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland, and more.

From December 14 through January 5 each year, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in the Christmas Bird Count. Wildlife organizations use data collected in this long-running census to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action. In the Kawarthas, there are counts taking place in Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland, and Hastings. (Photo: Camilla Cerea / Audubon)
From December 14 through January 5 each year, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in the Christmas Bird Count. Wildlife organizations use data collected in this long-running census to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action. In the Kawarthas, there are counts taking place in Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland, and Hastings. (Photo: Camilla Cerea / Audubon)

Even if you’re not an avid bird watcher, you have likely heard of an annual tradition called the Christmas Bird Count.

The Christmas Bird Count started over a century ago, with 27 birders in 25 locales from Toronto to Pacific Grove in California. The initiative was led by ornithologist Frank Chapman, who proposed a conservation-oriented alternative to the traditional ‘side hunt,’ which was a Christmas Day competition to hunt the most birds and small mammals.

This alternative initiative to identify, count, and record all the birds found on Christmas Day in 1900 has turned into one of North America’s longest-running wildlife monitoring programs.

Another Christmas Bird Count season is just around the corner. Between December 14, 2017 and January 5, 2018, tens of thousands of bird and winter enthusiasts will rally together to count millions of birds across the continent as part of the 118th year of this long-running wildlife survey.

Members of the Peterborough Field Naturalists enjoy a chilly but rewarding day watching and counting waterfowl. Many species of birds can be seen throughout the winter season, including during the Christmas Bird Count that is happening in Peterborough on December 16th. All experience levels of birdwatchers are welcome to join in Peterborough County's largest and longest running citizen science project. (Photo courtesy of Peterborough Green UP)
Members of the Peterborough Field Naturalists enjoy a chilly but rewarding day watching and counting waterfowl. Many species of birds can be seen throughout the winter season, including during the Christmas Bird Count that is happening in Peterborough on December 16th. All experience levels of birdwatchers are welcome to join in Peterborough County’s largest and longest running citizen science project. (Photo courtesy of Peterborough Green UP)

Participants in Peterborough will take part in this fun winter tradition on Sunday, December 16th, many rising before dawn and counting birds until sunset.

Each year, Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society help coordinate and support the efforts of more than 2500 counts throughout the Western Hemisphere. Christmas Bird Counts are run across Canada and the United States, as well as in Latin America, the Caribbean, and some Pacific Islands.

What are tens of thousands of bird watchers actually looking for during these counts? Data collected during each count includes details on the number of birds of each species seen or heard that day. Count areas are delineated in each locale by a 24-kilometre diameter circle. Surveying this same circle year after year contributes valuable long-term information about how winter birds are faring, both in each area and across the country.

Peterborough participants count birds in a 24-kilometre circular area centered on the intersection of Chemong Road and Sunset Boulevard. The count area is divided into 10 smaller areas and a team of participants is assigned to each area.

The Christmas Bird Count, which began in 1900 as an conservation-oriented alternative to a Christmas day hunting tradition, is the world's longest-running citizen science project. (Photo; Audubon)
The Christmas Bird Count, which began in 1900 as an conservation-oriented alternative to a Christmas day hunting tradition, is the world’s longest-running citizen science project. (Photo; Audubon)

The Christmas Bird Count is a long-standing bird-watching tradition in Peterborough and long-term citizen science project facilitated locally by the Peterborough Field Naturalists. Our local Christmas Bird Count is now in its 66th year and is the longest running wildlife survey in Peterborough County.

Do you love bird watching? If you are interested in participating, there is still time to register.

“Organization of the Peterborough count is coming together,” says Martin Parker, Peterborough Field Naturalist member and local Christmas Bird Count compiler. “Many Peterborough Field Naturalist members and friends have registered to participate. There is still room for more birders with ten areas within the Peterborough count circle, each of which will be covered by a specific group of participants.”

Not quite sure if your bird identification skills are refined enough to participate? Novice or experienced, the Christmas Bird Count is for everyone.

Bird Studies Canada’s Christmas Bird Count Coordinator Liz Purves assures interested bird watchers and enthusiasts: “Every Christmas Bird Count participant is an important part of this valuable project for birds.”

Whether you like exploring forests, fields, and waters in search of lingering migrants, or prefer counting feeder birds from your window with a warm mug in hand, the Christmas Bird Count offers diverse opportunities for participation.

No matter how you contribute, all Christmas Bird Count observations are used to study the health of winter bird populations over time and guide conservation strategies to help birds and their habitats.

“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,” Purves says.

The skill and dedication of thousands of volunteer Citizen Scientists harnessed during the Christmas Bird Count achieve incredible results that professional scientists and wildlife biologists could never accomplish alone.

VIDEO: The Christmas Bird Count narrated by late American ornithologist Chandler Robbins

Join one of the world’s largest citizen science projects this holiday season. During last year’s count in Canada, 14,000 participants in 447 counts across the country counted over three million birds of 278 species. Counts were conducted across diverse habitat types in each of Canada’s provinces and territories.

To register for the Peterborough Christmas Bird Count, you can contact Martin Parker by phone 705-745-4750 or by e-mail at mparker19@cogeco.ca.

There is also a Christmas Bird Count being conducted a bit further north in the Peterborough region: the 32nd annual Petroglyphs Christmas Bird Count will be held on Wednesday, December 27th. This count samples the bird life in an area that stretches from the north shore of Stoney Lake northward towards Aspley to Jack Lake. If you would like to participate in this count, please contact Colin Jones at colin.jones@ontario.ca.

Other counts in the area include the Fenelon Falls Christmas Bird Count, organized by Kawartha Field Naturalists, and the Rice Lake Plain Christmas Bird Count on the south shore of Rice Lake. Editor’s note: there are also counts in Cobourg and Bancroft.

For additional information and to register for these counts, visit the Bird Studies Canada website at www.birdscanada.org/volunteer/cbc/.

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