Volunteers needed in Nanaimo for annual bird count

NANAIMO – Christmas bird count takes place Dec. 29.

The 2013 Nanaimo Christmas Bird Count is set to take place on Dec. 29.

The annual event begins at midnight, runs for 24 hours and organizer Ryan Cathers is seeking birdwatchers of varying degrees to assist with the count.

“Last year I really tried to encourage new and learning birders to come out and participate and I want to continue that message this year,” Cathers said. “Anyone with an interest in birds is welcome to come – it can be a great learning experience. Even just the extra pair of eyes is a huge help.”

The Christmas bird count has been taking place since 1900, when it evolved from a bird shoot. Cathers said there are counts North America-wide. In the case of Nanaimo, the coverage area is 15 kilometres, north, south, east and west of the Bastion in downtown Nanaimo, with the area broken into 20 zones.

“Basically on count day, you go out and you’re looking at any bird,” explained Cathers. “You count every single bird you see and every single species, and what kind of species you’re going to see really varies depending on the area, whether you’re looking out at the ocean and you’re looking for seabirds or you’re inland and you’re in the woods and looking for songbirds and forest birds.”

Cathers said the numbers will be sent to the National Audubon Society, Birds Studies Canada and Cornell University lab of ornithology, which compile nationwide and continent-wide data on the various counts.

While Cathers said a minimum of 20 watchers is needed (one for each zone), the more the merrier.

“Last year we had over 120 and I would love to see that again,” he said. “It was absolutely fantastic to have that many people out.”

As of Thursday, Cathers said 30 people are signed up to take part but they are always looking for more people – people wanting to bird watch can sign up right up until Dec. 28.

To sign up to help, please contact Mike and Wendy Woodworth at 250-751-0109 or woodwo1@telus.net. A post-count potluck supper event will be held at the Rotary field house on Third Street, with doors opening at 5 p.m.