Birds of a feather counted together

Not every one spends Boxing Day traipsing through the mall looking for bargains. Some Yukoners would rather spend it out in the wilderness counting birds. And they're not the only ones.

Not every one spends Boxing Day traipsing through the mall looking for bargains. Some Yukoners would rather spend it out in the wilderness counting birds.

And they’re not the only ones.

They are just some of the tens of thousands of volunteers across North America who participated in the National Audubon Society’s 112th annual Christmas Bird Count.

“It’s a wonderful way of people connecting with the landscape and with the life outside during the deepest, coldest part of winter,” said Cameron Eckert, a conservation biologist with the Yukon government and director with the Yukon Bird Club.

The Christmas Bird Count is an annual survey of the winter bird populations across Canada and the U.S.

Each community that takes part picks a day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 to do the count.

For almost four decades Whitehorse has been conducting it on Boxing Day.

“There is no better time to get out of doors and to count some birds than after a couple of big Christmas meals,” said Eckert.

While not every Yukon community chose to do the count on Boxing Day, people from Old Crow to Watson Lake all participated at some time during that period.

Although mostly “citizen scientists conduct the count,” they do collect valuable scientific information about bird population trends over time, said Eckert.

To ensure the data is accurate the count is rigidly standardized.

Each one is done over the course of one day within a 24-kilometre circle.

In addition, all the data on the effort involved – how long each participant is out and how far they walk or drive – is meticulously recorded.

Everything is compiled and published on the Audubon Society’s website.

“I know there’s probably a number of scientists that are using the Christmas Bird Count information to write papers about trends in bird populations,” said Clive Osborne, a semi-retired zoologist who has been participating in the Marsh Lake Count since it started in the early 1980s.

Over the years, Osborne has observed a lot of birds and seen their populations wax and wane, but the most consistent trend has been the weather.

“Definitely the climate has gotten warmer,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

That warming trend has had some surprising implications for bird populations.

“It used to be that all the swans left the Yukon in the winter, but now for the past five or six years a small flock has been wintering at Johnson’s Crossing,” said Eckert.

Back in the ‘70s all the major rivers in the Yukon would freeze solid, but that’s no longer the case, he said.

“Large sections of rivers are remaining open throughout the winter and it’s providing opportunities for some ducks, swans and bald eagles that are spending the winter,” he said.

For Eckert it’s not just about the birds.

“It’s a community event,” he said. “Generally for each of the counts there is often a post-Christmas potluck at someone’s house where people come together and share the stories of what they’ve seen.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Ivan, centre, and Tennette Dechkoff, right, stop to chat with a friend on Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. Starting Dec. 1 masks will be mandatory in public spaces across the Yukon in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Most Read