Mark your calendars for this year's dates if you are planning to participate. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is an annual event that takes place throughout North, Central and South America between mid-December and early January. Each count takes place during a single calendar day and covers the area within a circle measuring 24 kilometers in diameter. On a count day, we are out for a good portion of the day, recording not only the different species seen, but also the number of individuals of each species. There are four current active count circles in Timiskaming District; Haileybury, Mountain Chutes (Elk Lake), Hilliardton Marsh (Englehart), and Kirkland Lake.
You don't have to be an expert birder to participate in this event. If you are a novice, we will pair you up with a more experienced birder. In fact, we encourage newcomers to come out, as it is a great way to improve your skills and learn all your winter birds in the company of a "seasoned" observer. Bring a lunch, binoculars, and dress appropriately for spending time outside in the cold weather, including good boots in case we need to walk around in wet or snowy locations. Other handy items to bring include a bird ID book, pen or pencil, note book, camera etc. We will supply a map of the survey circle and tally forms.
The first of our Christmas Bird Counts, for the Haileybury count circle, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, December 15th. This count takes in New Liskeard, Dawson Point, Haileybury, North Cobalt, and points in between. We will meet at McDonald's Restaurant in New Liskeard at 8:30 AM. Following tradition, some of us are meeting for breakfast between 8:00 and 8:30 AM. The count will start at 9:00, and we usually finish birding around 3:30 or 4:00. It is customary for us to get together afterwards and compile results, so bargain on the day taking until 4:30 or so. As for all counts, ad-vance notice that you plan to participate is appreciated (see contact numbers at the end of this article). Even if you are not quite sure but are hoping to join us, please call before count day. The Mountain Chutes / Elk Lake count will happen the next day, on Sunday the 16th. Call Mike for meeting time and location.
The Hilliardton Count will take place on Saturday, January 5th this year. We will meet at the south entrance of the Hilliardton Marsh (opposite Wool Mill Road), at the banding shed. Count starts at 9:00 AM sharp, so arrive around 8:30 to plan teams and routes. The Christmas Bird Count for Kids will be happening this same day and starts at 10:00 AM. If you would like to watch your feeder for the day instead and report your feeder results for the day to us, please contact the coordinator for your area. We will need to know in advance if people are watching their feeders so that these locations will not be counted during the "roving" tally to prevent double counting.
For the keeners out there, "Count Week" includes three days before and three days after the chosen Count Day. So, for the Haileybury circle, Count Week begins on the 12th and ends on the 18th. For the Hilliardton Count, the dates are January 2nd to the 8th. Species not recorded on the official day of the count, but within the official count week and inside the count circle, can be recorded if observed between those dates.
"This event is not just about counting birds", says Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada's program coordinator. Christmas "Bird Count data informs decisions by wildlife managers across Canada. Because birds are early indicators of environmental threats to habitats that we share, this is a vital survey of North America and, increasingly, the Western Hemisphere."
When & Where? If you plan on joining us, please call in advance so that we can prepare maps & tally sheets and make sure we have enough vehicles. Haileybury Count Circle - Saturday, December 15th by 8:30AM at McDonald's. To participate in the Haileybury Count, call Mike Werner at 705-680-0044.
Mountain Chutes Count Circle (including Elk Lake) - Sunday, December 16th. For the Mountain Chutes Count, call Mike Werner at 705-680-0044.
Kirkland Lake Count Circle - Monday, January 1st, 2018. To participate in the Kirkland Lake Count, call Mike Leahy at 705-642-1982.
Hilliardton Count Circle - Saturday, December 16th. Meet at 8:30 at the Hilliardton Marsh banding shed.
To participate in the Hilliardton Count, call Serge Gendron at 705-544-2449. See you there!