It’s time to dust off your binoculars and bird guides.
Paul Foth, the lead organizer of 100 Mile House’s Christmas Bird Count, is in need of new counters for this year. Foth said the count is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17, which makes it the perfect weekend activity for amateur birders.
“Hopefully on Saturday, we get some more people involved,” Foth said. “Twelve to 15 birders is a great number and I have about six people ready to do the count. We would love a few more volunteers to join a team.”
The count is held around Christmas to provide a consistent guidepost to measure the number of birds in the area. Foth said 100 Mile House’s count circle is large, extending from 93 Mile to the 108 Mile Ranch and from Horse Lake to Buffalo Creek.
During the count, Foth divides this large territory up, usually into about six zones, that teams of two to three birders will each cover. Using binoculars, cameras and their own eyes the counters note what types of birds they see and how many of them.
“Typically we try to pair an experienced birder with a less experienced birder if we have beginners or novices joining. The count is a great way to get to know your local birds.”
Foth also has several feeder counters who keep note of how many birds use their bird feeders during the day, adding to the overall tally of the area. The count typically begins in the morning and runs until the sun sets. Afterward, Foth compiles all the data together to determine the area’s final count.
During a typical year, Foth said they usually count 30 species of birds. However, if the unseasonably warm weather the South Cariboo saw in the fall makes a return he said they could count up to 50 unique species.
In the winter Foth said they usually see woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, ravens, finches, bohemian waxwings and hawks. In the past, they’ve also seen migratory birds like song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, ducks and geese if there is standing water.
“There is a few of us birders who are very serious bird listers, we keep lists of the birds we see,” Foth said. “Now that it’s the end of the year there’s a bit of a competition going on (to find the most.) So this bird count might put one of us over the top if we find something uncommon but for everyone else, it’s a fun day to get out and get to know the birds.”
Foth said he is unsure if cases of avian flu, reported throughout the continent this year, will impact the bird count. He said it tends to infect larger birds and is more of a risk for domestic birds, such as turkeys and chickens.
Anyone interested in joining the count this year is invited to email Foth at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will offer training in bird identification over Zoom to anyone who needs it.