Armed with binoculars, long camera lenses and a tripod, a trio of bird enthusiasts were busy counting birds at White Rock beach on Thursday, Dec. 29.
Just some of the birders counting winged wildlife from Langley through Surrey and White Rock, they were dressed for the brisk weather in warm, insulated layers.
The annual bird count, which has been happening around the world for more than 120 years, relies entirely on volunteers to count all the birds they can see and hear on a specific day of the year.
“We’re seeing a fair amount of scoters – white-wing and surf scoters,” said Angela Bond, who is originally from Nova Scotia, where she learned a love of birds from her grandparents and was involved with a national bird-banding program.
“We’re definitely seeing less than normal. Of course, there’s lots of gulls.”
While organizers were still tallying the results of the Dec. 29 count on Tuesday (Jan. 3), Bond’s assessment of fewer numbers echoes last year’s results, where there were fewer volunteer counters as well as fewer birds counted.
A rise in COVID-19 infections at the time was likely the cause.
A common loon, house sparrows and crows were among the species of birds spotted by the trio within just a few minutes, as well as several black-capped chickadees, with their signature sounds.
“That’s their alarm call,” Bond quipped.
“Even every crow is important. It’s a long-term data set that makes it easier for people to monitor the different numbers and cycles (of birds) over time.”
Last year, local photographer John Gordon came across a Common Redpoll on the Arbour Ribbon Trail behind the Christian Life Assembly on 56th Ave in Langley during the Sunday survey.
“I haven’t seen one[here] in eight to 10 years,” Gordon noted.
Gordon described the Redpoll as a “winter bird of the far north that only ventures down to the Lower Mainland during severe weather events.”
The count is an early-winter bird census by the National Audubon Society, conducted with the help of more than 70,000 volunteers across Canada, the U.S. and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Christmas bird counts began in 1900, when a group of concerned natural historians felt it was better to count living birds than try to shoot as many as possible in a day.
Information collected by participants over the past century are one of only two large pools of data about how birds of the Americas have been faring over time.
In 1962, the first count was carried out in the Surrey municipality with 17 observers.
– with files from Dan Ferguson