Recent Media Coverage

Christmas count vital for scientists

December 18, 2014

By Tim Miller
Belleville Intelligencer

BELLEVILLE - While most will be enjoying a restful post Christmas glow, John Blaney is gearing up to get a bird’s eye view of feathered friends in the area.

Blaney, an avid birder, will be participating in this year’s Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 27th. This will be the 13th bird count Blaney has helped organize for the area.

“I enjoy it. It’s a contribution to what’s called citizen science as well as just the personal experience of enjoying that contribution and the enjoyment of the excuse to go outside,” said Blaney.

Each year volunteers rise from their warm beds, many before dawn, and brave the winter cold armed only with telescopes, binoculars and checklists to participate in the annual event.

The Christmas Bird Count dates back to 1900 which makes it the longest running wildlife census and is considered a crucial part of Canada’s biodiversity monitoring database.

“The Christmas Bird Count is a fun tradition with an important goal – bird study and conservation,” Anne Bell, director of conservation and education at Ontario Nature, stated in a press release.

“It’s great to see expert and novice birders working together to spot as many species as possible, regardless of the weather,” stated Bell.

Data gathered from the one-day bird census is used to monitor the status of resident and migratory birds across the western hemisphere.

The counts are performed by volunteers and organized locally by birding and nature clubs.

“We normally have between 20 and 25 volunteers,” said Blaney who is expecting to have the same amount this year.

The count will cover a 12 km radius centering on Belleville’s city hall.

“Every circle has to be the same because they do establish a scientific protocol. Anything seen on the 27th within 12 kms of city hall is part of the count.”

Last year more than 4,000 people participated in bird counts across the province recording a total of 178 species and 1,094,937 individual birds.

“Data is gathered on the status of bird species from year to year so ornithologists, the professionals, can determine where the bird populations are increasing, what species may be in trouble and what species may be doing okay,” said Blaney.

With changing weather patterns this information could be more important than ever.

“Birds have evolved to arrive and raise their families at a time when certain insects hatch. When the weather patterns change the bird behaviour changes and those two things are no longer necessarily in synch. The birds need the insects to feed the nestlings, so it’s not good for the birds that this is happening so quickly,” said Blaney.

“The changing weather patterns are happening so quickly, it’s faster than evolution can compensate for.”

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