Ann Nightingale is the coordinator of the annual Victoria Christmas Bird Count

Ann Nightingale is the coordinator of the annual Victoria Christmas Bird Count

Bird watchers unite for annual Christmas count

On a chilly Tuesday morning in mid December, Ann Nightingale is out at Ten Mile Point, scouring the waterfront for a snowy owl.

On a chilly Tuesday morning in mid December, Ann Nightingale is out at Ten Mile Point, scouring the waterfront for a snowy owl.

She heard the bird was spotted on a nearby island a couple days ago. Spending hours searching for a certain bird is something that’s become the norm.

“It gets you outside. I am always learning new things. It’s great for me, I get to spend time with friends,” said Nightingale, who’s been birding for about 16 years and gets out at least a couple times a week.

“I’m still exploring new locations that I haven’t visited before and birds are often the motivation to do that.”

The Victoria resident is among a few hundred participants gearing up for the annual Christmas Bird Count on Saturday — a tradition that began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history.

Today, more than 71,000 volunteers from all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies and Pacific Islands, count and record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area. It’s an exercise participants say is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere.

Last year, a record setting 241 field participants headed to the streets, parks and beaches in the capital region to count all the birds they could find. Covering more than 11,000 kilometres during their search, a total of 71,761 individual birds of 141 species were counted, marking the highest species total of all the Canadian counts that year.

Participants also saw two birds that had never been recorded in Victoria — a yellow-breasted chat that should have been wintering in Central America and a redwing that should have been lounging near the Mediterranean.

For Nightingale, the redwing was the star of the show.

“That was not only a lifer for pretty much everyone in Victoria, but the bird was rare enough that people were literally flying in from Texas, Florida and New England to see this bird in Strawberry Vale,” said Nightingale, who’s seen about 550 bird species in North America, including a record-setting 269 on Vancouver Island in a single year.

“When you have a bird that’s that exciting, you go back several times. It’s not just a tick on your list. I went back probably 20 times while it (the redwing) was here. As it got later in the year it started singing so that was pretty phenomenal.”

According to Nightingale, coordinator of the bird count, there are a few birds in Victoria at the moment that shouldn’t be here. Those include a tropical kingbird at Ten Mile Point, a western bluebird in Colwood and a mountain bluebird in Central Saanich. But one of the most interesting things about birding is the shift in numbers.

Some birds that used to be rare are now common, such as the white throated sparrow and turkey vulture. However, some species, like the red head duck and sky lark, used to be a regular, but are now rarely seen.

“There’s a lot of factors, but one is the decline of birds in general. Studies show we’ve lost about 50 per cent of the world’s birds in the last 50 years, which is just horrendous,” said Nightingale, noting some species have headed to other parts of the world. “It’s all tied to food really. If their food is shifting northward then they’ll shift northward.”

This year’s bird count takes place within a 24 km radius that stretches to the ocean shores in Victoria to Wallace Road in Central Saanich, Oak Bay and Witty’s Lagoon.

Everyone is invited to report the birds in their yards or come out and join a field team. For more information and a brochure with photos of 28 of the most common species seen around feeders and gardens visit naturevictoria.ca/cbc.

 

 

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

Just Posted

Johnathan Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight charges including sex-related offences against children and accessing, possessing and making or publishing child pornography. (Courtesy of Saanich Police)
Sentencing date moved for Saanich nanny guilty of child porn charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight sex offences against children

(Google Maps)
Sophisticated glass-removal crime returns to downtown Victoria

Several businesses on Fort Street targeted overnight, say police

Patrick MacMullan won $28,000 playing Toto. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Greater Victoria man wins $28,000 while watching football

Winning ticket purchased at Colwood convenience store

Victoria police are seeking public assistance in identifying a suspect and witness of a Dec. 4 sexual assault in Esquimalt. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police seeking suspect, witness of sexual assault of Esquimalt teen

Teen sexually assaulted Dec. 4 after departing number 15 bus

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Most Read