January 4th – CBC….4 KIDS

Ornithologists of the future? Bird/nature enthusiasts at the very least. (Front) Noah, Eila, Maggie; (middle) Liam, Aliya; (apex) Nola. -DOL

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere, performed annually in the early Northern-hemisphere winter by volunteer birdwatchers and administered by the National Audubon Society. The purpose is to provide population data for use in science, especially conservation biology, though many people participate for recreation. The CBC is the longest-running citizen science survey in the world. -Wikipedia

The Grand River is wide open – NO ice. So Great Blue Herons aren’t in a hurry to head south. If the river stays open they could be around all winter. -ELO

Up until 1900 a popular Christmas tradition was to go out and shoot as many birds as possible – not for food, or research but for “sport”. And then Frank Chapman, one of the founders of the National Audubon Society, came up with the idea of just counting birds, not killing them. The first count took place in 1900 conducted by 27 observers in 25 locations in both the U.S. and Canada. They observed about 18,500 birds comprised of 90 species. Now there are over 71,000 observers spread over more than 2,300 locations in 17 countries. And the data generated is proving to be invaluable. A good way to monitor bird numbers over time.

And then someone came up with the brilliant idea of involving kids in this process. This was largely in response to the very apparent disconnect being observed between children and their natural environment. In fact, a term has been coined recognizing this: “Nature Deficit Disorder” or NDD. The big question that is emerging is: how can we reconnect kids with nature? I don’t want to offend anyone…but….go to a local Naturalists’ Club meeting and you will find a lot of geezers and very few (if any) people under the age of 20. At the Ruthven banding lab we have recognized this problem for a long time and so have made it a priority to encourage kids to take part in the bird studies we’re conducting, including banding and detailed observations/counts. So a CBC 4 KIDS is right up our alley. We’ve hosted them on behalf on the Hamilton Naturalists’s Club for the past few years and this year hosted our own.

A nice size comparison shot: Red-bellied Woodpecker (behind) and Downy Woodpecker. Both are females – the Red-bellied has a gray forehead and the Downy has no red at the back of the head. -AG

We had over 50 visitors attend and almost all of them went on censuses to count the birds that were around or watched the banding that was going on – conducted mostly by well-supervised young people that have been coming out on weekends to learn. I’m glad that many parents took part with their children because this NDD isn’t confined to just kids – adults as well know very little about the natural world. Maybe, ironically, they will be brought back to nature by their children’s interest in it.

Rick imparting pearls (of wisdom) as Noah prepares to band his first bird. LVE

Noah in the act of processing his first banded bird. LVE

Banded 12:
6 Dark-eyed Juncos

Rosy pink male House Finch. -ELO

3 House Finches
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 18 spp. (interestingly only 1 American Tree Sparrow was sighted – normally this is a common winter resident at Ruthven)


A splash of colour on a dreary winter day – male Northern Cardinal. -AG

Blue Jay – a common feeder bird and winter resident. (But a number of years ago VERY few were counted on the Toronto CBC; people figured they had been decimated by West Nile disease.) AG

Female Downy Woodpecker (no red on the back of the head). AG

Male White-breasted Nuthatch – another common winter resident you can find at your feeder. These busy birds take the seeds and stash them under bark or in holes for use later on. The trees at Ruthven must be full of sunflower seeds. -AG

I wouldn’t be surprised if this nuthatch had stashed a seed in the hole right in front of it. -AG

A nice size comparison shot: Red-bellied Woodpecker (behind) and Downy Woodpecker. Both are females – the Red-bellied has a gray forehead and the Downy has no red at the back of the head. -AG

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker (gray forehead) giving Eila what for. -ELO


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