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This is for the birds

By Susan Gamble

Brantford Expositor

January 5, 2014

Like their quarry, birders moving along the cold trails of Brantford on Sunday morning were tough, tenacious and seemingly impervious to the cold.

The nine counters who were gathering information for the Canada's annual Christmas Bird Count came prepared with binoculars, cameras, tripods, hot drinks and warm clothing.

“Some of the birders stayed out for hours,” said Amanda Kelly, a sociologist who is also a member of Ontario Nature.

The count, which began at about 9 a.m. Sunday, was almost called off after the pre-Christmas ice storm left some trails littered with broken tree limbs.

But Kelly said the day – despite a light sleet falling in the morning – was a great one for birding.

“The birds really stand out against the snow,” she said.

“And, although there were a lot of broken branches on the trails, it didn't affect the birding. It was a really nice day and a lot of fun. We are Canadian so once you dress for the weather it's totally fine.”

Kelly said she was surprised to learn the city wasn't part of the 114-year-old annual winter bird census, which is undertaken in more than 2,000 places in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The information gathered gets drawn into data sets that show the distribution and numbers of winter birds over the years.

“Scientists and researchers will use this information all year round,” said Kelly.

The team on the trail saw and counted what was expected – cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, Canadian geese, seagulls, crows and a hawk.

But another counter – Neil Faulkenham – stationed with a view of his backyard feeder for most of the day, added mourning doves, nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, goldfinches, starlings and woodpeckers.

The surprise of the day was Faulkenham's observation of a single yellow-bellied sapsucker at his feeder. That type of woodpecker isn't normally found through a hard winter in this area, said Kelly.

She said she is thrilled at the number of people who expressed an interest in the count, even if many of them begged off at the last minute.

The count, she added, is an important environmental aid that can assist in examining scientific and health issues.

Brantford is the only region that hasn't previously submitted data to the national count, she said.

Birders Tony Zammit and Kevin Murphy acted as team leaders on Sunday, helping to scout the trails and guide the reporting process.

Data from the Brantford count will go to both Bird Studies Canada – which can be found at www.bsc-eoc.org – and the National Audubon Society.

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