Have you noticed the birds singing ever so sweetly these past few days?
I was going for a walk yesterday and was caught by surprise at the resounding trill above my head and there was a soft grey bird flying from branch to branch enjoying the warm weather and the bright sunshine! I couldn't recognize what kind it was from my perspective, but the little fellow was singing with enthusiasm! Yes, spring is in the air!
Every year at the end of December the Westman Naturalists host a Christmas Bird Count near the town of Rivers and in the City of Brandon. The purpose is to collect and formally document the different bird species and their populations in our Westman Region.
Event organizer, Gillian Richards, has a full spread sheet of each year's December bird count dating back to 1981 when she first joined the hundreds of thousands of bird watchers around the globe.
"In the days before bird counting Apps this was by far the biggest source of information for drawing maps of where birds were wintering," explains Richards. "If you have a bird book, you'll see different colors; pink is where they are in the summer, purple is all year and blue is where they are in the winter. They needed data for that and so this Christmas Bird Count was a large part of that data."
Apps such as e-Bird have added to the data collection as folks can document their findings throughout the year, however Richards says the Christmas Bird Count is still a valuable and consistent means of data collection.
Gillian Richards says there are some interesting and unique finds in this most recent count at the end of 2023.
One can spot a bald eagle up on the treetops or on the side of the road pecking at a deer carcass, however, another bird of prey in our area is the rough-legged hawk.
"They're a really cool bird," shares Richards. "They breed way, way up north and they're one of the first that we see migrating in the spring and they're one of the last ones to come down. They're a beautiful bird, they'll hover quite often, that's one way you can tell it's them."
A house finch is another bird that has shown an interesting trend over the past number of years. Back in 1981 there were none of these orange-red colored (males) birds the size of a sparrow. In 1992 one house finch was counted, then 19 and the last count was 316 of these little birds.
Richards says once the birds winter in the area, find a warm place to stay and adapt to the cooler temperatures, and have an ample supply of food over the colder season, they establish themselves. "The house finch is here to stay," she adds.
Please listen to more with Gillian Richards below!
The Westman Naturalists counted 23 different bird species in Rivers, and 37 different species in and around the City of Brandon at the end of December annual bird count.
Visit the Christmas Bird Count website HERE!