Make every bird in Kitimat count

The Christmas Bird Count approaches for the Kitimat area.

The Kitimat Centennial Museum has archived many historic documents specific to Kitimat.

Among their collection is a large ring binder with thousands of bird records documented by a single person, Bob Hay, who worked here from mid-1974 through to late 1975.

Within his many pages are 38 sightings from December 18, 1974.  These were the first documented birds for Kitimat’s first official Christmas Bird Count. Many Christmas bird counts, however, began well before 1974.

The first was actually held on Christmas Day, 1900.  On that day, twenty-seven communities across the continent sported birders outside documenting winter birds.  In the ensuing century, such counts have become so popular that practical measures now apply.   The single day has been replaced with a three-week count period.   Christmas Day usually falls in around the middle.  These days, almost every major city and innumerable towns across Canada and the USA hold counts, all of which involves tens of thousands of people interested in counting birds.

Bird counts have become well organized due to the large numbers of participants and because they have become very useful in a scientific way.  The results are tallied and then send to regional editors who condense the findings for publication in the Journal of American Birds.

Scientists then compare statistics to help monitor bird populations over the entire continent.

Even though counts have a scientific value, volunteers energize them.  Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of birds is welcome.  Some people keep track of birds at their feeder.  Others spend a few hours walking throughout their neighbourhood.

Keen individuals spend the entire eight hours of daylight trying to find as many different species as possible.

In Kitimat, this can be quite easy or sometimes very challenging.  If December proves to be a mild month, then backyards and parkways can still have a good measure of open ground coaxing a good number of birds to linger a little longer.

A few robins usually stay here this late, along with brightly colored Varied Thrushes, Northern Flickers, and several species of finches.

If you keep a feeder stocked in your yard, juncos, Song Sparrows, chickadees and Steller’s Jays will likely be your most frequent visitors.  Feeders also attract much more aggressive birds such as Pygmy Owls and Sharp-shinned Hawks.

Winter is the toughest time for birds, so predatory birds will often hunt where prey is most numerous.  Backyard feeders fit the bill quite nicely. Don’t count on getting too good a look at a hawk.  They usually make a lighting fast appearance and an equally fast exit.  They only hang around if they sense a small bird may be weak or injured, thus making an easy meal.

Outside of our yards, the waterways are another great place to find birds.  This requires donning coats and boots but the birding rewards are worth it.  Minette Bay, the outer estuary, the Eurocan oxbow and the Kitimat River offer the easiest places to stop, look, listen, and record.

These watercourses offer critical winter habitat for waterfowl such as Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, and Green-winged Teal.

We also have a substantial population of Great Blue Herons that now spend the winter months along the estuary edges which remain free of snow.

So, despite Kitimat’s deep snow, rain, clouds, and dampness, there is plenty to see.  In fact, we have one of the best counts in the northern half of the province.  In the last several years, over 50 species and several thousand individual birds have been reported from this part of the Kitimat Valley.

Are you interested in taking part?

If you would like to be a part of this year’s count keep at least a couple of hours open on Dec. 15.

You should also contact the Kitimat Centennial Museum or April McLeod at 250-632-3977 for more details.

In the meantime, keep your feeders full and an eye open for those winged wonders passing through your yard or soaring overhead.

Dennis Horwood writes the semi-regular Nature’s Path column for the Northern Sentinel.

Just Posted

RCMP searching for missing Lax Kw’alaams resident

Public urged to help in search for 42-year-old Lawrence Maitland

Pacific Northern Gas moves to reinstate full capacity and expand pipeline

Increased supply and demand could mean lower rates for North Coast customers, PNG says

CN train derailment cleared between Terrace and Prince Rupert

The CN mainline is now open, following a train derailment mid-way between… Continue reading

Kitimat’s BC Hydro substation receives a massive upgrade

It will cost $82 million to ensure that LNG Canada has enough… Continue reading

Comment requested for Kitimat LNG’s expansion plans

Company says radical redesign means additional export is possible

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Coast Tsimshian sign historic stewardship agreement

Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla plan to work as one to preserve traditional lands

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Most Read