The Westman Naturalists held their annual Christmas Bird Count at the end of December and had some interesting results!

One day was dedicated to an area within the City of Brandon and the second day was dedicated an area just outside of Rivers.

Board member, Gillian Richards heads up the Christmas Bird Count each year, rallying up the volunteers to scour the specific areas to count the different species of birds they see, and their population numbers.  This also includes birds seen at residents' feeders on these designated days.

"The Christmas Bird Count is part of an international effort to count birds around the Christmas time," explains Richards. "So, there are counts going on all over North America in a 3-week period around Christmas. You pick a point in the middle of Brandon and the middle of Rivers, and you draw a circle with a radius of 7.5 miles."

In Brandon the center point is 18th Street and Victoria Avenue but it's important to note the Brandon Hills are not included in the area of context.

Because the bird count initiative has been going on for so long, they see some very interesting tracking as to what the changes have been, says Richards.  In the Brandon area, the bird count started in 1982, as did the Rivers' count. However, the Rivers' bird count had lapsed a few years and has only recently been revived.  The Westman Naturalists are still wanting more volunteers to help them in the Rivers' area.

In Rivers the volunteers counted 23 different bird species.  "Of note, were some mourning doves and some Eurasian colored doves, which we haven't seen before in recent years," explains Richards, "and a couple of red-winged blackbirds which definitely shouldn't still be here!"

"The most numerous species was the snow bunting at 334 birds. We also had quite a few rock pigeons, and house sparrows, but second was the common red poll, a tiny little bird that eats seeds."

The pine grosbeak claimed a healthy number in both the Brandon and the Rivers' counts.

The Brandon bird count resulted in a total of 37 species. The American robin and the western meadowlark were species to note, with the house sparrow claiming greatest population of 2, 245.

The Bohemian waxwing, chickadees, nuthatches and the red crossbills were among the species of interest as there were strong populations of each of these. 

On the opposite end, they found no snowy owls despite a concentrated effort, and they saw only one horned owl.  They saw eagles, but no ducks or geese.

Please listen to more of this interview with Gillian Richards below as she gives greater details on the most recent Christmas Bird Count.