You too can be a citizen scientist! Join a Christmas Bird Count this year

Volunteers with binoculars at Codroy Valley Fall waterfowl Survey, NL (photo by NCC)

Volunteers with binoculars at Codroy Valley Fall waterfowl Survey, NL (photo by NCC)

December 11, 2015 | by Kristyn Ferguson

Citizen science monitoring is an unspeakably important part of conservation, and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t tried it out yet to get involved. Christmas Bird Counts in particular are a great excuse to catch some sunshine and exercise during the dark, sedentary months of winter. For me, they're a great way to learn how to identify even more bird species (which I then can point out in delight at my own feeders all winter long!).

The first Christmas Bird Count was launched in 1900. Since then, according to Bird Studies Canada, it has become "North America's longest-running Citizen Science project." Counts happen between December 14 and January 5.

The results of each count help conservationists track the distribution and size of bird populations.

Want to join a Christmas Bird Count near you?

Check out the Audubon or Bird Studies Canada websites  to find a count near you. Each year counts are registered at more than 2,000 locations in the western hemisphere.

My tips for other CBCers this winter:

  • Wear lots of layers (even four degrees can be chilly if there’s a damp rain and fog in the air);
  • Relish any warm drink offered to you;
  • Give in to comfort eating (for me that was the fast food burger over my healthy packed lunch); and
  • Enjoy every bird you get to see (including all 1,500 geese and 700 mallards) because any chance to be a part of nature like this for a day is truly one amazing Christmas gift.
Kristyn Ferguson with a twelve-spotted skimmer (Photo by Mike McMahon)

About the Author

Kristyn Ferguson is the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) program director for large landscapes in Ontario.

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