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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Edward Milne students clean up Whiffen Spit

Volunteers find styrofoam, cigarette butts and a single shoe

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

Police investigating alleged assault on Oak Bay Avenue

Staff at Oak Bay Home Hardware say one person was taken to hospital

Oak Bay neighbourhoods rocked by blasting activity

Oak Bay seeks new rock blasting bylaw regarding ‘continuous’ noise

Greater Victoria hardly making a dent in greenhouse gas emissions target

One-per-cent drop from 2007 to 2018 a far cry from the 33-per-cent goal for 2020

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Most Read