Bird watching might seem like a summer hobby, but a group of local enthusiasts are getting ready to participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count once again this year. It’ll be the 26th year that Golden birders will take part in the event which has become a holiday tradition across North America.
Ellen Zimmerman has had a passion for bird watching for much of her adult life, having watched birds since 1970, and brought the Christmas count tradition to Golden 26 years ago.
The count will take place on Dec. 27 throughout a large circle around Golden, from the Moberly area south to Nicholson, with Golden at the centre.
“What we do is kind of divide up the pie so you’re not covering the same area with more than one group of counters,” Zimmerman said.
Some groups will go out all day, while others will go out for just an hour. Others will stay warm at home and observe the birds that stop in at their bird feeder.
“All those kinds of contributions are very valuable,” Zimmerman said.
The data will go into a much larger, Canada-wide database but it’s not just those statistics that make this an important study.
“It’s a way of engaging citizen scientists to participate. It’s something that’s quite easy to do and quite accessible,” Zimmerman said.
Advanced birders and complete beginners are welcome to participate, and Zimmerman says that any first-timers who are eager to join can be paired up with more experienced bird watchers if they like.
Participants will count every species of bird that they can see or hear, with Golden’s population numbering between 35 or 40 species.
Bohemian Waxwings are among the species that are most often observed.
“You can see these huge clouds of birds, these massive undulating flocks of little songbirds in the sky and it’s quite challenging to count those because they are moving, but we do our best,” Zimmerman said.
“Sometimes we’ll count upwards of three or four thousand of them.”
It’s not just a keen eye that makes a good bird watcher, as it is often another sense that allows for the most efficient observation.
“I learned to identify birds by ear and it’s a really useful tool. Quite often it’s not the birds that you’ll see, it’s the birds you’ll hear.”
It’s important for participants to pre-register so that Zimmerman knows where certain groups are going to be.
Anyone with any interest in participating in this year’s count can e-mail Zimmerman at email@example.com.