Langley bird count organizer Mike Klotz and volunteer Devon Comstock were looking for species of birds in Milner on Saturday. Black Press photo

VIDEO: Annual Langley Christmas bird count underway

Annual event is part of 118-year-old tradition

Turnout for the 2018 Christmas bird count was down, likely the result of the weather forecast.

“I think I had 10 people cancel last night,” said organizer Mike Klotz, as volunteers gathered Saturday morning at the Ricky’s Restaurant.

“We had several people beg off because of the rain.”

About 16 people showed up to carry out a tally of birds within several areas of Langley, dividing up into teams to survey specific neighbourhoods.

Among those who chose to brave the inclement conditions was Anthea Farr, who was planning to search for birds on a flood plain.

“We’ve all got tall rubber boots, because there’s a lot of water on the trail,” Farr said.

“I’ve been birding for a couple of years and I thought it was time I met some other birders,” first-timer Colin Rankin said.

“I like to hang out with like-minded people.”

This has been a good year for bird-watching, thanks to the cold winter that drove many species south ins search of food, explained wildlife photographer John Gordon, a count regular.

“A really good year is 250 species [spotted in a single year],” Gordon said.

“I’m up to 244 and one young person has seen 270, just in Metro Vancouver.”

Part of a world-wide count that has been going on for about 118 years, the count has a competitive element, with participants looking to identify the most birds or to find unique species.

“We’re very territorial and competitive,” said volunteer Tom Wildboer, laughing.

There are rules of engagement, participant Anne Gosse said, when it comes to carrying out a count on the boundary with another team’s territory.

“We try not to poach on the other groups:” she said.

“We like to say, don’t look at the other side.”

The count 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 are one of only two large pools of data about how birds of the Americas are faring over time.

READ MORE: Birders brave the cold for annual Christmas count

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.

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From the 2017 bird count in Langley. Courtesy Mike Klotz

Photo of Pine Siskin taken during the 2017 Christmas bird count in Langley. Courtesy Mike Klotz

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