If Wendy Boothroyd cannot find her binoculars on Friday, she should blame husband Ken Madsen for their absence.
In anticipation of the Yukon Birdathon, the couple has made a friendly bet on who can raise more money by getting sponsors and spotting the most birds. Only adding tension is the fact Boothroyd is raising money for the Yukon Bird Club, of which she is the director, and her husband is raising money for the Yukon Conservation Society.
Perhaps the inspiration of the Boothroyd-Madsen wager is that the two organizations are also holding a friendly bet to see who will bring in the most money, adding a competitive element to the recreation.
However, it could not be friendlier, since the two organizations host the 24-hour Birdathon, which begins Friday at 5 p.m., together.
“The Birdathon has always been organized by two organizations, the Yukon Bird Club and the Yukon Conservation Society,” said Boothroyd. “The competition is just a side-bet. The Birdathon is a fundraiser for the bird club and conservation society so people get sponsors or pledges—so much money per birds species they’re going to identify.
“The money goes towards conservation in the Yukon.”
Well-known explorer, wilderness guide and avalanche expert, Hector Mackenzie, will be this year’s “feature birder,” sharing his vast knowledge of ornithology while using the opportunity to voice his concern over dropping bird numbers.
“We need to get off our butts and find out what is happening to our birds,” said Mackenzie, in a news release. “Why are bird populations so low?”
Many bird populations have been dropping for years. Among the hardest hit are birds that nest in the boreal forests, many of which migrate to the Yukon.
“Well, habitat loss is one—that’s probably a huge one,” said Boothroyd, explaining the trend. “Climate change is another, it’s affecting bird populations, especially in the North.
“So that’s one thing we’re trying to do for the Birdathon is encouraging people to do their bird watching using as little fossil fuels as possible. If they can walk, ride a bicycle or take a bus to get where they’re going, we’re encouraging them to do that.”
Participants are allowed to go anywhere in the Yukon to find the feathered creatures.
Boothroyd plans to spot birds in a very ornithological sounding location: Swan Lake.
“It’s a small lake just east of the Yukon River, south of Lake Laberge,” said Boothroyd. “Apparently, it looks like a swan when you see it from the air.”
Other popular places to go for bird watching close to Whitehorse are the McIntyre Creek Wetlands, Hidden Lakes and the sewage lagoon, said Boothroyd.
A list of Yukon birds can be picked up from the Whitehorse Public Library or at the Yukon Conservation Society.
“Most people use a Yukon birds checklist,” said Boothroyd. “People will use a field guide that show pictures of the birds to identify the birds.”
To wrap-up the Birdathon, Boothroyd and her husband will be guiding a “bird walk” on some of the Millennium Trail beginning next to the S.S. Klondike at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“So people who want to participate in the Birdathon but might not be confident of their birding, they can come along if they’d like to,” said Boothroyd.
For more information Wendy Boothroyd can be reached at 668-7370.
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