Birds Who Stay Home for the Holidays

A Rocha Manitoba’s first official Christmas Bird Count

By Graham Peters, Conservation Science Coordinator 

January 17, 2023

Bird Count Area Map

This year A Rocha Manitoba hosted its first official Christmas Bird Count. Our A Rocha team and four incredible volunteers went out to the Boreal Ecology Centre and explored all over East Braintree, Prawda, and McMunn watching and counting all the birds we could find.

Beginning in 1900, the Christmas Bird Count is North America’s longest-running crowd-sourced 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 diameter circle that stays the same from year to year.

A cloudy but beautiful snowy day

Now some might be left scratching their heads wondering how a Christmas Bird Count would even go, afterall, winter is when all of the birds migrate south in search of warmer climates and fresh food. And to that I would say, you’re right, mostly. Many species of birds actually stick around through the whole year, equipped with warm downy feathers and clever food finding strategies. You can learn more about who they are from this video featuring Mark Huebert, one of our dedicated volunteers.

Mark pointing out some birds

We set out in teams by foot, and by vehicle. The day was cloudy, and there had just been a big dump of snow. We observed 17 species of birds, and a total of 284 individuals. And while it isn’t a competition, some award should likely go to Mark who spotted over half of those. It was a day full of excitement and beauty getting to witness the snow painted over the landscape as if out of a story book and flocks of black-capped chickadees dancing around the branches, pine grosbeaks flying in massive numbers overhead, and the sudden wonder of a pair of ruffed grouse thundering from the bushes. Keep an eye out for summaries of the Christmas Bird Count results here.

We have been so excited to expand the bird watching we’ve been able to do at the centre, and if you’re looking for opportunities to come see the birds in East Braintree we’d love for you to join us for the John Stott Birding Day this coming May. Sign up for our email newsletter for details.

Happy Birders

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Want to do some winter birding?

Check out A Rocha Manitoba’s video webinar about birding in winter!

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Photos by Zoe Matties. Featured photo: Sharp-tailed Grouse