Bird count reveals splendours of Sask. nature

The next generation of bird lovers and watchers combed Regina’s Wascana Lake on Saturday afternoon, collecting data that could inform research across North America, during Nature Saskatchewan's third annual Christmas bird count.

Nature Saskatchewan hosts third annual Christmas Bird Count at Wascana Lake

A Bohemian Waxwing is seen here during winter, with Nature Saskatchewan hosting a Christmas bird count event on Jan. 6, by Regina's Wascana Lake. (submitted by Gary Vizniowski)

The next generation of bird lovers and watchers combed Regina's Wascana Lake on Saturday afternoon, collecting data that could inform research across North America.  

Nature Saskatchewan is trying to foster children's love of nature, and its third annual Christmas Bird Count is a way to do just that, explained Lacey Weekes, the organization's conservation and education manager.

"Kids are outside, they're being active," said Weekes. "They're with their friends and they're learning about bird conservation and actually collecting data that could contribute to bird conservation."

This year, a capacity crowd came out to be part of the count. The information they collected goes into an online database, called eBird, which records bird observations throughout North America and which is used as a resource by researchers and scientists.

Kids gathered at Wascana Centre Authority in Regina, heading from there outside to take part in Nature Saskatchewan's third annual Christmas Bird Count. (CBC News)

Most commonly seen species during the count include house sparrows, black capped chickadees, finches, ducks and geese, among others, but there can be unusual sightings as well, said Weekes, adding that birders encountered a northern shrike last year.   

The northern shrike is known for impaling its prey on thorny shrubs, she said, adding, "It's a really cool bird and we weren't expecting to see that."  

Conditions were balmy, in terms of a prairie winter, nearing the zero degree mark over the course of the afternoon. 

They're colourful, they're cheerful, their songs brighten our day. I think people just kind of love birds.- Lacey Weekes, Nature Saskatchewan

People can be scared to venture outside during winter, noted Weekes, but if they're ready to bundle up and brave the elements with a field book and binoculars in hand, she thinks they may just discover a new passion.

"Bird watching is such an old hobby and it's addicting," Weekes said, noting that once people start, they can get hooked on wanting to record as many different species and birds as possible. "They're colourful, they're cheerful, their songs brighten our day. I think people just kind of love birds."