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It's Time for our Christmas Bird Count!

The 122nd Audubon Christmas Bird Count has commenced, and we need your help! 

Our dates are as follows:

December 19th - Stettler Area (ABST)

December 26th - Buffalo Lake Area (ABBU)

January 2nd - Red Deer/Erskine/Content Bridge (ABRR)

More information can be found below!

If you have any questions, please contact us at buffalolakenc@gmail.com or via our contact page.

Starting in 1900, National Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is North America's longest-running Citizen Science project. Counts happen in over 2000 localities throughout the Western Hemisphere. The information collected by thousands of volunteer participants forms one of the world's largest sets of wildlife survey data. The results are used daily by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess the population trends and distribution of birds. Each Christmas Bird Count is conducted on a single day between December 14 and January 5. Counts are carried out within a 24-km (15-mi) diameter circle that stays the same from year to year. They are organized, usually as group efforts, at the local level, often by a birding club or naturalist organization.

Find Out More from the National Audubon Society

The National Audubon Society has a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) page to check out where they have a lot of information on how you can contribute to this season's bird count!

You're Invited to Take Part!

The National Adubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count is a perfect activity for those who are just starting to get interested in birding, and a perfect family/cohort citizen scientist learning opportunity in your community! 

Wintertime means that there is a limited number of species to observe. This makes it easier to identify and count compared with the 400-plus species that stay during the summer. 

Our observations contribute to an assessment of the health, trends, and distribution of bird populations. These are able to help guide ongoing conservation efforts.

Each count takes place in a designated 24-kilometer (15 mile) diameter circle. If your home is located within the boundaries of a designated CBC circle, you can stay at home and report the birds that you see. 

However, prior arrangements will need to be made with the person that is the primary compiler for that count circle. This will avoid any potential duplications in observations.

Each circle covers a large area. Drivers and observers are needed to do a thorough count of the birds seen that day with no duplications.

To find established CBC circles, visit Birds Canada linked in the button below!

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COVID-19 and the Christmas Bird Count

We recommend to keep your health and safety at the top of your mind during the CBC. To be COVID-safe, please put your and others' safety at top priority in your decisions.

If you would like to take part in a COVID-safe CBC this year, the guidelines below are suggested to follow:

  • Comply with all current public health guidelines for your area;

  • Practise social-distancing;

  • We very strongly advise that no in-person gatherings to be held before nor after the count;

  • Wear face masks when physical distancing is not possible or if mandated by local health authorities;

  • Public health recommendations may change before or during the CBC season; 

    • A COVID-Safe CBC might be cancelled at the last minute

 

Please review this letter to Birds Canada volunteers undertaking Citizen Science surveys in 2020.

 

Also note that there will be limited impact on the long term scientific and conservation value of the Christmas Bird Count by missing or altering one count season.

CBC Maps

Stettler CBC Area (ABST)

Buffalo Lake CBC Area (ABBU)

Red Deer River CBC Area (ABRR)

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Christmas Bird Count Information & Instructions

Please review the following before going out to your CBC location[s]. Ensure you have coordinated with your local CBC compiler to know where to count. This will help avoid any duplicate counting that may arise.

 

Stop along your route wherever and for as long as you need to.

 

Please, do not trespass on private property, and be aware that some people may stop and ask if you're lost, or need help. If this happens, introduce yourself and explain what you are doing and what the CBC is about. 

Record current weather conditions:

Weather tends to influence birds' activities. Your tally sheet allows you to record temperature from when you start and finish your count, as well as wind speed, wind direction, whether it's clear or cloudy, raining or snowing, and condition of snow cover. 

Designated census route:

A census-style route should be run by each party or group. Their route will be covered in-depth where they are responsible for counting every bird they encounter by sight or sound. To ensure that no double-counting occurs, no other group should encounter or attempt to overlap that route. Please check with the area's CBC compiler to verify the area you are to cover, and who will be covering other areas that may create potential overlap or counting conflicts.

Counting while driving backroads:

Keep a tally of the species of birds and their numbers that you see on a sheet of paper. This is your tally sheet. Here is an example to demonstrate how a CBC census count should go.

Let's say you saw three (3) Ravens and two (2) Magpies during the first few minutes of your count. On your piece of paper, jot down:

 

  • Ravens - 3

  • Magpies - 2

 

Moving on to the next point on your route, you notice some roadkill and decide to stop and watch what comes in. Five (5) Magpies and one (1) Raven stop by to eat. On your tally sheet, you note down these numbers respectively: 

 

  • Ravens - 3 + 1

  • Magpies - 2 + 5

 

This brings your count up to seven (7) Magpies and four (4) Ravens. Further down your route, you observe two more Magpies fly up to a tree near the road. Jotting these numbers down on your tally sheet brings your total up to nine (9) Magpies.

 

  • Ravens - 3 + 1 = 4

  • Magpies - 2 + 5 + 2 = 9

 

If you see no more Magpies at the end of your count, you have now nine magpies to record as your final number (in addition to the four ravens).

Retracing your route:

Many times you will see multiple birds of the same species at different points on your route. Write down the number of species that you see at that point, adding to the numbers that you wrote down previously. Avoid counting birds on any part of your route you need to retrace unless there are additional numbers or newly observed species. This is because there's a significant chance that the birds you saw on that part of your route will be the same birds you've already counted.

However, if you encounter new individuals or a different species not observed previously as you retrace your tracks, include them in your tally list.

 

You went walking down a trail and note down three (3) Black-capped Chickadees and five (5) Common Redpolls. You decide to retrace your steps because the trail doesn't have a different exit back to your vehicle or home. On your way back you see one (1) Hairy Woodpecker and eight (8) Common Redpolls. Adding these, your tally should now be:

 

  • Black-capped Chickadees - 3

  • Common Redpolls - 8

  • Hairy Woodpeckers - 1

Counting large flocks of birds: 

Large flocks of over ten (10) or 20 birds are difficult to count. The quickest way to count such large groups is to make a sweep of a subgroup of about ten birds and take note of how big of an area those ten birds cover. Sweep the entire flock counting groups of about the same size (estimating in groups of tens). Don't worry about accuracy, count to the best that you can. If others are using the same method, compare the number of birds they observed to what you found, and make an average agreeable number. This method is very helpful if you're faced with counting large flocks of redpolls, snow buntings, or even geese that have chosen to remain behind due to food availability.

Watching home feeders:

Avoid counting birds that come to your feeders. You will run the risk of over-counting or counting double--or more--the number of birds that are actually present at the point in time you are doing your count. Focus only on counting the maximum number of individuals seen and/or heard at one time for that species. Do not keep adding chickadees for the entire watch period, for example. If you have a large flock of chickadees or redpolls, it is best to have more than one person counting together to get an accurate count.

If you are watching your feeders for more than 30 minutes, count the birds as a feeder watch. Keep this separate from your tally count. 

 

If you are watching a feeder in a yard as you are driving or walking a route, do a maximum observed count; add this to your tally.

Counting during "count week":

Making counts during what is called "count week" is applicable for those who live within the designated CBC circles. The count week runs three days prior and three days after the count day. For example, you would be able to start counting birds on December 16th, 2021 when the count day is on December 19th, 2021. You can then continue counting birds up to December 22nd, 2021. 

 

For each species observed during the count week, record the number observed, making sure to note that the counts were obtained during count week only. Write "CW" beside any counts made during this time period.

 

Take pictures if you can! It really helps to better identify species and numbers of large flocks. 

Christmas Bird Count Tally Sheet

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Christmas Bird Count Safety Tips

The Christmas Bird Count should be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. 

 

However, your and others' safety is still top priority. Conducting your CBC in a safe manner is your responsibility. If you are ever concerned about your safety, please do not (or continue to) conduct your survey.

 

Keep the following safety guidelines in mind for your count area.

General Safety Tips:

  • Bring a cell phone

    • Make sure it’s fully charged.

    • If your taking a vehicle, and you haven't had a chance to charge it up, make sure you have means to charge it, like a remote charger or your car's USB port (if equipped).

      • USB adapters that can be put into your car's cigarette lighter also works well, if your vehicle is not equipped with a USB port.

  • Tell a friend or relative where you are going and when you will return.

  • Pack a first-aid kit.

    • A basic first-aid kit should have several bandaids, gauze, medical tape, latex gloves, hand sanitizer (or santizer hand wipes), and a pocket-sized first-aid guide. 

  • Bring more snacks and water than you think you will need. 

  • Bring a partner or two!

Vehicle Safety Tips:

  • Ensure your car is in good working order. 

  • Make sure your vehicle has sufficient fuel before you go.

  • Decide if your car needs snow tires or chains, according to road conditions (see below).

  • Bring a winter emergency car kit. 

  • Make sure you have your spare tire, jack, and tire repair kit.

    • Make sure you know how to use them before you go. 

Road Conditions:

 

  • Check the forecast for driving conditions and visibility before you leave home.

    • Weather apps like WeatherCAN, WeatherOffice, or Instant Weather are recommended for up-to-date weather conditions for where you wish to go.​

    • Other apps like Ventusky.com and Windy.com provide present-moment weather radar and weather-condition imagery on everything from wind gusts to snow accumulation amounts for your area and where you will be performing your counts.

    • Alberta Government also provides a regularly-updated road conditions map: 511 Alberta

  • Do not continue your count if road and driving conditions are hazardous (e.g., icy roads, blizzards, poor visibility, ice fog).

  • If you feel that it's not safe to go, then don't go. 

Stay safe!