This merlin was discovered atop a branch of a tree in the Morgan Hill neighbourhood of Port Townsend in Washington State during Admiralty Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. The Pitt Meadows count is coming up Jan. 4. (files)

This merlin was discovered atop a branch of a tree in the Morgan Hill neighbourhood of Port Townsend in Washington State during Admiralty Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. The Pitt Meadows count is coming up Jan. 4. (files)

Christmas Bird Count needs volunteers

Coordinating Jan. 4 count in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Canada’s bird populations are dropping, with a decline of 25 per cent since 1970.

That fact from Environment Canada is part of what motivates people to get involved with the annual Christmas Bird Count.

In this area, the 120-year-old study is being organized by Pitt Meadows resident Jennifer Tayes.

For her, the annual count has been a lifelong passion – her mother Thelma Forty was an avid birder. She is a member of the Alouette Field Naturalists. which is getting involved in the count alongside other conservation groups in the region.

The local count is named for Pitt Meadows, but it extends west to Port Moody and east to 248th Street in Maple Ridge.

“We do it to track the fluctuation in the population of birds,” Tayes said.

READ ALSO: Three billion fewer birds in North America than in 1970, study finds

The worldwide count takes place between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. The Pitt Meadows count is Jan. 4.

The Christmas Bird Count took root when 27 birders in 25 locations from Toronto to Pacific Grove, Calf., proposed a conservation-oriented alternative to the traditional side hunt – a Christmas Day competition to hunt the most birds and small mammals.

This alternative initiative to identify, count, and record all the birds found on Christmas Day 1900 has turned into one of North America’s longest-running wildlife monitoring programs. It is a citizen science project.

Tayes said whether you like exploring forests, fields and waters in search of lingering migrants, or prefer counting feeder birds from your window with a warm mug in hand, the Christmas Bird Count needs as many counters as it can get.

All observations help in understanding the health of winter bird populations over time and guide conservation strategies.

Results are shared with the participants and become part of a vital long-term dataset.

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“Every Christmas Bird Count participant is an important part of this valuable project for birds,” said Yousif Attia, Birds Canada’s Christmas Bird Count coordinator.

“Whether you participate for bird conservation, for some friendly birding competition, or for an excuse to get outside in the winter, your efforts are meaningful for birds.”

• To get involved in the bird count, contact jtayes@shaw.ca.