It was out on the open ocean nearly five years ago when Robyn Byrne discovered a new passion for bird-watching.
The Saanich woman and her husband were kayaking around the waters off Victoria when they realized they couldn’t identify any of the birds they spotted while on a day trip.
The next time they were looking out to the ocean while camping out in Nanaimo on New Year’s Day in 2016, they came prepared. They brought a book filled with local birds and snapped several photos of wildlife.
Fast forward to 2020, Byrne is coordinating the annual Christmas Bird Count in Sooke on Dec. 27.
The Christmas Bird Count has the longest history of any citizen science project that dates back to the early 1900s. There are more than 2,500 counts across North America that take place from late December to early January.
On Dec. 27, Byrne will join dozens of birders in Sooke to spot as many bird species as they can within the day.
“The migration trails are so interesting,” said Byrne. “I love that even a little hummingbird can fly across the country and come back to the exact same feeder.”
She said people could choose to participate from the comfort of their own home by reporting what birds they see by their feeders. The Rocky Point Bird Observatory website offers a gallery of photos for commonly seen birds and rare ones, so people who don’t have much experience with birding can participate.
Sooke’s count is divided into eight zones, assigned to birders before the big day.
The area extends from Otter Point Park to Metchosin Golf and Country Club. With nearly 60 people taking part in last year’s event, Byrne hopes to attract the same amount of people.
In 2019, the group identified 106 bird species.
Byrne said she never grows tired of discovering new birds, as she’s been able to improve her identification skills to the point where she knows what birds are in the area just by closing her eyes and listening. Common birds that she can identify include the chickadee, American robin and bald eagle.
The Sooke count is planned for Dec. 27; Sidney is scheduled for Dec. 20 and another in Victoria on Dec. 19.
Those interested in taking part can fill out a form at bit.ly/SookeChristmasBirdCount.
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