Watchers flock to bird count
At least 50 bird watchers in Red Deer were poised with their binoculars for the Central Alberta Annual Christmas Bird Count on Sunday.
Last year a total of 93 people counted birds in Central Alberta, up from 85 in 2010.
The number of participants for Sunday’s regional count won’t be known until all information is submitted by the Dec. 29 deadline.
The largest number of bird watchers for the winter count was 266 in 1987.
Judy Boyd, member of the Red Deer River Naturalists, said birds coped well with the early winter. It was the bird watchers who were having problems.
“Everything froze so fast we still have leaves on the trees so it’s hard to see the birds,” Boyd said with a laugh.
The count shows trends in bird populations which helps determine if any species are in trouble.
Counts have been held since the mid-1980s in Central Alberta and covers an area from Ponoka to Olds and from almost to Rocky to almost to Stettler. In all there are 27 circles where people can count that are around 24 kms in diameter that make up the Central Alberta bird count area.
On Sunday morning along the Red Deer River, Boyd spotted Common Goldeneye ducks, mallards and one Green-winged Teal duck, and about 500 Bohemian Waxwings.
She said so far this winter there have been lots of Pine Grosbeaks finches and Northern Flicker woodpeckers usually show up, and there’s been a few sightings of snowy owls.
“We haven’t had the big massive flocks of Bohemian Waxwings yet. Just some of them are here.
“And we haven’t had a lot of Snow Buntings, which we usually get a lot of too.”
Boyd said people don’t need to recognize a lot of bird species to join in the count.
“They just mark down the ones they know and a lot of times they can just do a description and from the description we can figure out what it is.”
It can be as easy as watching their backyard bird feeder to see who shows up, she said.
Some bird watchers are “bush beaters” who walk through parks and green spaces in search of birds.
“A lot of them are just driving country roads and just counting the birds as they find them.”
If they want, Boyd will also partner new bird watchers with those who have more experience.
“That’s the best way to learn, go out with a birder.”
People can also record any interesting or unusual bird seen any time during the count week which runs three days before and after the official count day. Make sure to note when and where the bird was seen and what it was doing.