This job’s for the birds

Shuswap naturalists Bill Grainger, Ed Dahl, Pam Rhine and Clive Bryson take part in the Christmas Bird Count held each year in the Shuswap.  - Shuswap Market News file photo
Shuswap naturalists Bill Grainger, Ed Dahl, Pam Rhine and Clive Bryson take part in the Christmas Bird Count held each year in the Shuswap.
— image credit: Shuswap Market News file photo

Almost every year for the past 42 years, annual bird count co-ordinator Ted Hillary has spent one wintry day cataloguing avian residents.

“Every year is different because it’s weather dependent,” he says of the annual count.  “I always enjoyed birdwatching – it’s in the blood, and I enjoy getting out in the fresh air.”

While the air is indeed always fresh, some counts are easier than others.

“You can’t count what you can’t see,” he laughs of Christmas bird counts that were complicated by heavy snowfalls. “If it had been last Sunday, it would have been disastrous with the fog.”

As always, Hillary is hoping for mild, sunny weather Sunday, Dec. 22, when four teams will cover a 15-kilometre ring around Salmon Arm, counting every feathered thing they see.

The circle is divided into four quadrants, with Hillary’s team meeting at the Brighouse Interpretive Centre at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Other teams cover the Tappen-Sunnybrae area, the NE sector which stretches toward Sicamous and the SW quadrant that extends along the Salmon River Road almost as far as the Silver Creek Store and the southeast quadrant that reaches toward Enderby.

Hillary will match volunteers with teams in the are nearest to their homes and refer them to those team leaders, who will tell them what to wear, what to bring and where to meet.

Hillary, who took over co-ordination of the Christmas count from the late Frank Kime about seven years ago, says every team has an experienced leader.

Joyce Henderson  and Jeff Styles lead the SE quadrant;  Ed McDonald covers the NW quadrant, Monica and Ed Dahl lead volunteers in the SW quadrant and Hillary takes on the NE section.

Monica says there’s fun in getting out to look for birds and see what birds are surviving the weather.

“One of the limiting factors is if there’s too much ice on the lake, you can’t see the waterfowl, and if there’s too much snow, the geese are gone.”

With daylight fading, the count finishes at 3 p.m., followed by warmth, coffee and goodies while the count is tabulated at the Seniors Drop-in Centre on Hudson Avenue.

While about 25 regulars join the count every year, Hillary says new volunteers are always welcome. Anyone interested in taking part in the count should call him at 250-832-4755.


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