New Brunswick

Birdwatchers gather for annual Christmas count, hoping for a rare sighting

Birdwatching enthusiasts gathered Saturday at Kouchibouguac National Park for an annual Christmas tradition, also one of the longest-running wildlife samplings in the world.

Yearly tradition helps document bird species diversity and numbers

Bird watchers gathered at Kouchibouguac National Park early Saturday morning to take part in the annual Christmas bird count. Shown is a common redpoll. (Denis Doucet/Parks Canada)

Birdwatching enthusiasts gathered Saturday at Kouchibouguac National Park for an annual Christmas tradition, and one of the longest-running wildlife samplings in the world.

The Parks Canada annual Christmas Bird Count was first held in 1969, the same year the park opened.

The yearly event is a great way to understand what nature has to offer, said Daniel Gallant, a resource manager at the park and organizer of this year's count.

"It's also a great way to know what is around during this winter period, a period where we have pretty scarce management because most of our programs take place in the spring, summer and fall," he told CBC's Information Morning Moncton.

Participants will attempt to identify as many birds as possible, such as the American tree sparrow. (Parks Canada/Denis Doucet )
 

The count takes place within a 24-kilometre radius along the east side of the park, which also encompasses surrounding villages.

Participants split up into about 50 different routes, and try to identify as many birds as they can either visually or by the call, Gallant explained.

Last year, the count identified 30 species and counted just under 1,000 birds, which is a typical amount, he said.

While most are species familiar to the region, such as woodpeckers and black cap chickadees, there's always the chance to see something rare, he said.

Last year, participants spotted a sharp-shinned hawk during the annual count. (Courtesy of Ferne Williams )

Last year, a sharp-shinned hawk was spotted by one birdwatcher, he said.

The Kouchibouguac National Park is one of 400 sites that take part in the annual Christmas count each year.

The data collected is used to document bird species and numbers across Canada.

With files from Information Morning Moncton