• Stephanie O’Hanley

75th Hudson Christmas Bird Count December 27, 2015


PHOTO BY ANDREW BELDING

You might see a snowy owl in some sectors but Hudson Christmas Bird Count compiler Jean Demers says you're more likely to spot a cardinal or a blue jay that, though once considered rare, have made a recent resurgence in the region.

It all started with the idea that instead of hunting birds around Christmas, why not count them. Over 100 years later the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count is still going strong,

“It’s been going on for 116 years but now it’s almost worldwide,” said Jean Demers of Bird Protection Quebec, who is compiler for Hudson’s Christmas Bird Count. “All the data is sent to Audubon.”

Demers who’s in his fifth year as compiler for Hudson’s Bird Count and has been involved with the count for 13 years says the count helps people see what’s going on with bird populations and species. “It helps in studies of bird populations worldwide.”

Hudson’s Christmas Bird Count is a little different from Montreal’s since the 24-km area covered is not as urban, Demers said. The circle is centred at Cooper Airport in St. Lazare. “You have a good part of Hudson, you have St. Clet, part of Vaudreuil-Dorion, part of St. Lazare... In a good part of it you have a lot of fields and wooded areas.

“You won’t see snowy owls in Montreal, that’s for sure,” Demers said, adding that Hudson’s count includes ducks and rafters which you don’t usually see in the Montreal count.

Two years ago a red-bellied woodpecker was spotted at Hudson’s Bird Count for the first time ever. “That was pretty surprising,” said Demers. “Over the last 74 years we’ve had 140 species seen at the Hudson count.”

Strangely Hudson’s Christmas Bird Count, which has been going for 75 years, sees fewer birds than Montreal’s, he said. “I don’t know why nobody has analyzed that. In Montreal one thing that helps is feeders, a lot of people are feeding birds so they get more birds. In the Hudson area there are not as many feeders.”

For the count, parties, usually two or three people, spend a day that can go from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or longer driving or walking around, using their binoculars to search for any bird that has feathers and flies, Demers said. Even a budgie that’s escaped counts, Demers confirmed.

“This year if they have a smartphone I can send them a map that they can zoom in and exactly where to go,” he said. Also included: a sheet with a description of all the places they have to go, including the addresses of people with feeders, instructions and a tally sheet. Numbers can either be handed in or emailed at the end of the day.

No experience? No problem. “I’ll put them with somebody who has a lot of experience.”

If you have a bird feeder, Demers invites you to join the count. “I have maybe 10 or 12 people who just stay at their homes and watch the feeders.”

The main rule? No cheating. “It has to be as precise as possible,” he said. “If I see somebody who says he has 10 blue jays I’ll have to contact them.”

After the count people can drop in by the St-Hubert restaurant in Vaudreuil-Dorion at 4 p.m., to hand in their tally sheets and then enjoy finger food, wine and coffee and talk about their day.

For sign up or for more information, you can reach Jean Demers by email at cbchudson2@gmail.com or call (514) 694-8240.

To see if you live in the circle for Hudson’s Christmas Bird Count, a map is available in the Christmas Bird Count section of www.birdscanada.org.

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