Local groups getting ready for “North America’s longest-running citizen science project”

By Gordon Lambie

This coming Saturday, December 14, will mark the beginning of the 120th Christmas Bird Count, an annual event aimed at rallying the efforts of birdwatchers and amateur ornithologists across the Western Hemisphere to help gather information used to help guide conservation strategies. “On Saturday there will be at least 75 people participating,” said Camille Dufresne, who is a member of both the Saint-Francis Valley Naturalists’ Club and the Société de loisir ornithologique de l’Estrie (SLOE), the two groups who carry out the count every year in the greater Sherbrooke area. According to Dufresne the bird count has been happening in Sherbrooke and the surrounding area for more than fifty years, first under the sole leadership of the Saint-Francis Valley Naturalists and then with the help of the now-larger SLOE after it was founded in the 1980s. “Last year we saw 56 species and 12,000 individuals, and we were 76 participants,” she said. Brian Talbot, a member of the Saint-Francis Valley Naturalists’ Club, explained that the count is very systematic. “The maps of the country are divided into 24 km circles in different urban and rural areas,” Talbot said “the local clubs then divide those circles amongst themselves, usually with two or three or four people for each zone.” Within each zone, the birders walk around with binoculars and tools to help identify birds and conduct what the club member called a “conservative” survey of the birds they see. “We don’t guess,” he said, noting that care must be made not to over-count large groups or count the same bird more than once. See full story in the Wednesday, Dec. 11 edition of The Record.

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