Recent Media Coverage

Time to count owls and turkeys

Tuesday December 9, 2014

By Charlotte Drewett
Waterloo Region Record

Starting before dusk and counting until they lose the light, experienced birders and committed volunteers alike get ready to spot the region's birds with this year's Christmas Bird Count. Starting before dusk and counting until they lose the light, experienced birders and committed volunteers alike get ready to spot the region's birds with this year's Christmas Bird Count.

The international citizen science initiative began as a hunt over a century ago and is now a collective way for volunteers to contribute in tracking bird species and trends in their area.

Locally, the Cambridge count will take place on Sunday, Dec. 14 and the Kitchener count will happen on Saturday, Dec. 20.

"It gives people a good excuse to go out and spend some time outside and connect with nature, but it's also a really important way for us to monitor bird populations over long-term trends," said Mike Burrell, the compiler for the Kitchener area count.

The Kitchener count is coming into its 80th year and had one of its biggest groups of participants last year, with more than 100 volunteers.

The information is collected and given to the Audubon Society, an American organization that holds the data, and is then used to track what's happening with bird populations in North America, Mexico and South America.

Burrell said Christmas Bird Count data has been used to pinpoint birds that are declining in population, such as the Rusty Blackbird that is now considered a species at risk.

The Cambridge count has been having record-breaking years when it comes to the number of species recorded, according to the area's compiler Levi Moore.

Typically, at least one experienced birder who can identify 90 per cent of all birds by sight and sound takes a group of volunteers out on count day in Cambridge.

Moore said there's a "pretty wide spectrum" of participants.

"We have everybody from University of Waterloo students that come out, to retired school teachers," he said.

"It's almost as much about socializing as it is about getting out there and counting birds and quantifying what's going on with the birds."

More than 4,000 people were recorded as participating in the Ontario count last year and Colleen Cirillo, communications co-coordinator with Ontario Nature, said they're hoping the numbers will be higher this year.

"It's just one of many opportunities for the general public who can have various levels of skills to come together and contribute to the study and conservation of birds."

As for the birds sighted, "last year was an excellent year for owls in southern Ontario," Cirillo said. "And then for some reason it was a low finch year."

Anyone looking to join the count in Kitchener can email Burrell at mike.burrell.on@gmail.com and contact Moore at levicmoore1@gmail.com for the Cambridge count.

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