Organizers of this year’s 120th annual bird count in Langley are hoping for drier weather than last year, when a heavy downpour drove birds into hiding.
Last year, about 16 people showed up to carry out the tally of birds within several areas of Langley, dividing up into teams to survey specific neighbourhoods.
They counted 5,200 birds, well below the average of 6,000 to 7,000 recorded most years, and one of the lowest counts ever.
Birder Michael Klotz described it as a “weather unfriendly” count.
“As I remember last year, we had rain pelting in the window and clearing the other side of the truck,” Klotz commented.
“We will put a request in for better weather.”
Organizer John Gordon recalled the impact of the rain was substantial.
“We went birding in one place, we saw no birds,” Gordon told the Langley Advance Times.
“And it was full of birds the last time.”
So far, most long-range forecasts are calling for cloudy conditions with only a little rain on the day of the count, Saturday, Dec. 28.
It is an early-winter bird census by the National Audubon Society, conducted with the help of more than 70,000 volunteers across Canada, the U.S. and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Information collected by participants over the past century and more are one of only two large pools of data about how birds of the Americas are faring over time.
What has been described as North America’s longest running citizen science project was launched in opposition to a Christmas day hunting tradition known as a ‘Side Hunt’.
Groups of hunters would choose sides, take to the fields and forests and shoot everything in sight.
Whichever side returned with the largest pile of feathers or fur, won.
Noticing a decline in the number and variety of birds in 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman suggested a new Christmas tradition.
Instead of hunting birds, people would count them instead.
Christmas bird counts in the Lower Mainland are each conducted on a single day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
Each one is organized by a birding club or naturalist organization.
In Langley, the count is part of the larger White Rock/Surrey/Langley count.
This year, the start location has been changed to the McDonalds on the southwest corner of the intersection of 216th Street and Fraser Hwy.
Participants are asked to meet at 7:30 a.m. to get into groups and will head out at 8 a.m.
Gordon describes the annual bird count as a great family activity that is both fun and educational.
“It’s a great way to bring family together for a new Christmas tradition and grandparents and grandchildren can participate as well,” Gordon observed.
People can also take part from their homes by observing the birds that visit their feeders and report their count to Gareth Pugh, a local compiler.
If they are unsure about identifying various bird species, they can contact Pugh and a team member can be sent to visit their feeder.
“This part of the count is especially important as large numbers of birds can always be found where there are feeders, and rare species often show up at feeders,” Pugh related.
To participate, contact Gareth Pugh at 604-576-6831.