Bird count planned for Dec. 27th

By Ken Johnston
Editor

Your holidays could be going to the birds... well at least one day of them!
The Rainy River Public Library and Rainy River Recreation Board are organizing their first ever local bird count. While other national organizations, like the Audubon Society, have asked people to do counts here in the past, Librarian Michael Dawber said the library/rec. bd. wanted to do something more extensive at the local level.
“We want people to count throughout our service area which is 1,450 square kilometers,” said Dawber.
Normally bird counts ask people to volunteer to count in a 12 km radius. “We are asking patrons of the library to count wherever they are. It could be at a feeder in their yard or somewhere else,” explained Dawber.
The RR Public Library Bird Count will be held on December 27, 2013. Anyone who resides in Rainy River, Dawson, Lake of the Woods, Morley, Big Grassy, Nelles, Pratt, Spohn, Sutherland or Big Island can participate. All a person needs to do is pick up a count data form at the library or on the library’s website www.rainyriverlibrary.com.
The count is a spin-off from the ongoing birding program the library and rec. bd. have been co-hosting the past two years. Justin Wagner, who works on the program for both organizations, has been organizing bird watching activities and bird walks for the public.
Participants in the count can do as much or as little as they want. They can count all day or for an hour. But when counting, Dawber said the way to count is to mark down the largest amount of birds in one species they see. For example, “If you see four blue jays at the feeder at once, you mark down four. You do not count them one at a time as some of the birds may come and go more than once.”
Wagner will also be leading a community bird walk on Dec. 27th at 9:30 a.m. People can just show up for it.
Dawber, who is an avid bird watcher, said that factors such as weather or food supply can play a role in what people will see from year to year. “I have noticed the Pine Grosbeaks and the Red Polls are late in arriving here this season. I think it is attributable to a wet summer and lots of food supply.”
Dawber said that being on the edge of the prairies and at the top of the Mississippi Flyway has an impact on what birders can see here. Magpies are only found here and no where else in Ontario.
He is hoping that participants will record some birds that are rarely seen, such as the Red Bellied Woodpecker. “They are known to be around here, but to see one would be great!” He did say he saw a Bohemian Waxwing last week!
Once all the bird count data forms are turned in or emailed to the library, Dawber plans to enter the data at www.ebird.org so scientists can study it. Ebird.org is an international site for bird counts.