It’s a season of traditions, and for thousands of Canadians this means taking part in the annual Christmas Bird Count.
Called the “longest-running science project in the world” by the Audubon Society, this annual winter event — the 115th — can be fun, and it also has a purpose.
This year the Yukon Bird Club is sponsoring 15 counts throughout Yukon, plus ones in Atlin and Skagway. The first count took place on December 14, and the last will be completed on December 28.
“ The Christmas Bird Count helps sustain a North American-wide conservation effort which relies on monitoring winter bird populations,” says Cameron Eckert, president of the Yukon Bird Club.
One of the most popular counts is the Whitehorse one, on Boxing Day.
Anyone can take part, from beginners to experts. You can bird in a group, or alone. You can even count birds from the comfort of home, at feeders or in your yard.
Local “compilers” — well known volunteers and birders — organize the event so that a specific count area is covered. In Whitehorse, this includes a 24 km diameter from the top of Two-Mile Hill. The southern boundary is roughly Meadow Lakes Golf & Country Club and the northern boundary is MacPherson subdivision.
Riverdale is a popular area, with open water near the Rotary Centennial Bridge and Millennium Trail — hot-spots for uncommon birds and ducks. But surprises can occur anywhere.
It is a bit of a thrill to discover an American robin hanging out near the dam, or a puffed up house sparrow pecking for crumbs near a downtown café.
Tagish compiler and young birder Shyloh Van Delft calls the event, “the highlight of the winter season.”
As Eckert says, “Seeing our remarkable and beautiful birds on the coldest, darkest days of winter is simply magical.”
The results are entered on the Audubon Christmas Bird Count website. Here you can find information from every Yukon count, dating back 40 years. It's a terrific resource for tracking and understanding changes in winter birds around us.
What have we learned? Bird populations are changing in Yukon.
“ In 2014 there were five species of ducks on the Whitehorse count — that was unheard of 20 years ago. Bald eagles are now a regular winter bird here.”
Species commonly seen include tiny red-capped birds called the common redpolls and giant flocks of Bohemian waxwings.
To sign up or find out more about a count you want to join,
contact the compilers named below before count day.
Teslin – December 14
Compiler – Ben Schonewille
Carcross – December 20
Compiler – Dan Kemble
Haines Junction – December 20
Compiler – Julie Bauer
Skagway, AK – December 20
Compiler – Elaine Furbish
Tagish – December 21
Compiler – Shyloh van Delft
Meet 10 a.m. at the Tagish Bridge day-use area.
Dawson City – December 21
Compiler – Sebastian Jones
Marsh Lake – December 21
Compiler – Clive Osborne
Whitehorse – December 26
Compiler – Jim Hawkings
Watson Lake – December 26
Compiler – Jenny Skelton
Takhini-Laberge – December 27
Compiler – Cameron Eckert
Carmacks – December 27
Compiler – Jessica Condon
Kluane Lake – December 27
Compiler – Julie Bauer
Johnson’s Crossing – December 27
Compiler – Minnie Clark & Ben Schonewille
Mayo – December 28
Compiler – Mark O’Donoghue
Atlin, BC – December 28
Compiler – Andrea Sidler
New Christmas Bird Counts are welcome. If you don’t see your community on this schedule and would like to organize a Christmas Bird Count then please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.