In Greater Victoria the Christmas Bird Count really soars as far as feet on the ground.
Groups of birders scour the communities of the south Island over three days both at land and sea, documenting each bird as they go.
Where the region really falls down, though, is the backyard birder.
Christmas comes early this weekend for birders on the south Island. Dec. 17 is the annual Christmas Bird Count for the Victoria area, with the Sidney and Salt Spring count the next day. Sooke birders heal the post-holiday blues with a Dec. 27 outing.
The region tied for most species spotted in the field last year at 249, said organizer Ann Nightingale. It was good enough to tie for top number among all the Christmas Bird Counts, and there are more than 2,600 world-wide – though most are in North America.
In the backyard feeder category, there were eight.
“You don’t need a feeder to do a feeder watch. If you count the birds in your backyard, you can submit the feeder form,” Nightingale said.
She’d like to see that number boosted, and maybe a jinxed or rare bird could be spotted.
Despite rain coming down in droves, and mostly sideways, Oak Bay managed a rare find last year with longtime birder Geoffrey Newell leading the pack.
“Whenever we’re out on Christmas Bird Count, we’re trying to get the most birds possible, but it’s also nice to find any rare birds,” Newell said.
Last year, that team scored a rare king eider – a duck from the Arctic.
He and others have been out scouting this fall in preparation for the count, with no true rarities spotted just yet.
Nightingale hopes the jinx of the blue jay ends this year.
“There has been a blue jay in (Greater) Victoria at least three years during the Christmas Bird Count but we’ve never managed to turn it up on Christmas count day,” she said.
Spotted in previous years in Saanich, both near the University of Victoria and the former golf course near Royal Oak, there’s high confidence a blue jay is hanging about Prospect Lake this year. She’s tasked some experienced eyes to scour the area.
In Oak Bay, Newell says they’ll be on the lookout for a the rock sandpiper. It’s a bird uncommon in the Victoria area but that loves rocky shorelines so there’s pressure on Oak Bay to find that species.
The competition and camaraderie are fun, but both birders point out the the count provides critical population information.
“It’s to help us better understand the trends of our winter resident birds. It’s an important census that’s been going on along time,” Newell said.
Newcomers to the field are always welcome, and will be paired with experienced birders.
Visit ChristmasBirdCount.ca to find a team or fill out a backyard feeder form (remember, no actual feeder required).
Drop in for a Christmas Bird Count for kids on Dec. 17 at Beckwith Park in Saanich from 1 to 3 p.m.
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