Sharp eyes and trained ears are on the lookout for our avian friends.
The 54th edition of the Victoria Christmas Bird Count launches Saturday, where birders with spotting scopes and binoculars scan the horizon for birds of all types, including the rarer species congregating in Greater Victoria.
“This year could be an excellent year,” said VCBC co-ordinator Ann Nightingale. “We have a lot of rare birds out now.”
Recent sightings of a flock of brown pelicans near Fisherman’s Wharf and a blue-grey gnatcatcher at Swan Lake have been a source of excitement for birders in the region.
Nightingale, who counts herself as a birder as opposed to a bird watcher – as you may only hear the bird without seeing it – said the count is an important tool for tracking trends with an eye on conservation.
She hopes even more volunteers keep their eyes peeled for the Victoria event that boasts the most participants from more than 2,000 bird counts from across North America.
The Dec. 15 count covers a radius of more than 24 kilometres in 20 designated land zones and three water zones.
“It is the longest citizen science project going and Victoria has been doing this since 1958,” Nightingale said. “It is important we look at the trends, at what is happening in Victoria so we can conserve (the birds).”
More than 220 birders flocked to the count in 2011 and Nightingale has her sights set on even more volunteers, like second-year counter Kim Taylor.
“I am always excited to learn, it is a great experience,” said Taylor, a research technologist. “I have gotten the bug of seeing new birds. I am keeping a list of how many I see and it is fun to add to it.”
The longtime bird lover takes on the Albert Head Lagoon and Triangle Mountain count and looks forward to the challenge that puts her bird knowledge to the test.
“The game of figuring out who is who … and what they are doing is exciting to figure out,” Taylor continued. “It is the thrill of seeing some things new. It is an adventure.”
Other key birding areas include Clover Point, Esquimalt Lagoon and Martindale flats. Even residential backyard birdfeeders are in the sights of those who can’t make it outdoors.
Information from all bird counts is submitted to the Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada. Nightingale, a 17-year birder, hopes to surpass the 140 species and 80,000 bird-count average.
“It is important to me because I really care about what is happening with the bird population,” Nightingale said. “I am a bit of a bird evangelist and this is a great opportunity for me to share the birds with other people.”
For more information on the Victoria Christmas Bird Count, see naturevictoria.ca or email Nightingale at email@example.com.