All kinds of species — from wood frogs to wild pansies, ladybugs to Canada geese — will be tallied this month.
The Central Alberta May Species Count will run on Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27. Organizer Judy Boyd is hoping to get as many people as possible signed up and walking outdoors.
Participants can spend as much — or as little — time as they want noting all of the species they see. Boyd said she doesn’t expect anyone to count numerous insects or plants. But she would like their sightings to be jotted down, along with whichever mammals are spotted.
Boyd would like to have a bird count, however, because their populations fluctuate, and trends can be noticed over the long-term.
She noted the May species count has been going on for about 27 years and some birds that used to be common to this area, including evening grosbeaks and bank swallows, aren’t seen so much anymore. Boyd added there have been discussions about adding barn and bank swallows to Alberta’s threatened species list.
Others species, which were once considered rare, are now less so.
Last year’s May species count yielded the most sightings so far — 15 — of Eurasian collared-doves. There was also a belted kingfisher seen and 372 bank swallows. Boyd said it was the first time ever a cackling goose was recorded on the tally sheet, as well as a a great crested flycatcher songbird.
Anyone who spots a rare species is asked to photograph it. Boyd will send the photos to a rare birds committee in Edmonton (which includes the head ornithologist of the provincial museum) for verification.
The point of the species count is to create a big-picture view of how nature is faring in Central Alberta, said Boyd. “It’s a snapshot of what is out there.”
While anyone can sign up to count, she said participants need to pre-register to ensure there aren’t multiple counters in the same area. To preregister, please call 403-358-1098. A potluck supper will follow at 6 p.m. at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre on May 27.