The Christmas Bird Count for Kids and Youth takes place this year with COVID precautions. (Explore Science Club)

The Christmas Bird Count for Kids and Youth takes place this year with COVID precautions. (Explore Science Club)

Kids can collect vital bird data during Langley bird count

A family-oriented bird count has adapted to include COVID precautions

Families looking for a fun, COVID-safe activity can sign up for the Christmas Bird Count for Kids and Youth.

The Langley-based Explore Science Club will host its third annual kids count. Families have a three-day window to take part.

“Normally we would all get together at the same time and walk around doing the count as a group,” explained Nehal Saleh, Ph.D., who founded the club that offers programs throughout the year to get kids excited about science.

In the past, the count was held during a three-hour session.

“We obviously can’t do this now with COVID-19. So we have adapted this year by having Explore Science Club provide families the information needed to carry out their own count,” Saleh said. “This new format allows for social distancing at the site by spreading out family visits. Families can go at a time of their choosing over the course of 3 days. To help them perform their count, families will receive a digital participation kit with instructions for the count and hunt. Explore Science Club will be adding a scavenger hunt factor to the count to spice it up a bit as well.”

As with the first two kid bird counts, this one is centred around Brydon Lagoon, 5257 19th St., and its surrounding trails. It is a designated nature park in Langley City. It provides a diverse habitat for birds and is accessible all year round.

“When Explore Science Club was looking for a spot to start an annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids & Youth, Brydon Lagoon seemed like a great location. We hope the Nature Park designation means these areas will be protected well into the future,” Saleh said.

• READ MORE: Keeping a careful distance, participants prepare for annual bird count in Langley

The expansion to the three-day format allows families to choose the time slot that works best for them, and maintain social distancing from other counters and other users.

Registered participants will receive a digital participation kit from Explore Science Club. This kit will include data from previous counts, detailed map, along with instructions on how to identify local birds.

“If we get a healthy interest, families will sign up for time slots to regulate traffic at the lagoon,” Saleh explained.

In addition to being a fun, outdoor family activity, the bird count is important to science.

“The data is submitted to Birds Canada,” Saleh noted. “Collected data is used to identify significant bird population changes and help direct conservation planning.”

The Birds Canada Christmas count is part of a tradition stretching back to 1900. The Christmas Bird Count typically takes place in 2,000 locations and results in data being collected by thousands of volunteers.

Understanding the impacts of climate change on the behaviour of local and migratory birds will help maintain species diversity, Saleh said. A healthy ecosystem is a delicate balance of all its parts with the foundation depending on species diversity. Long-distance migrants are particularly at risk of a mismatch as it is harder for them to know what conditions might be like at the end of the migration route. For example, wood warblers in North America aren’t migrating earlier from their neo-tropical wintering grounds, despite earlier springs in their northern breeding ranges – this risks a late arrival, after spring food sources on breeding grounds are gone.

Saleh added that the number of counts planned for this year is much lower than normal due to the coronavirus.

The weather will be the other big factor on the bird count.

“Temperature is the most determining weather factor on how many birds we count. We are lucky to have a milder climate in B.C. allowing for year[round bird watching. The path we take has covered areas as well as open areas. We expect different birds to frequent certain habitats. The biggest impact on the diversity of birds is climate change. Climate change affects bird species’ behaviour, ranges and population dynamics.”

Participation in the bird count is free and suitable for ages five and older. Families are welcome and the route is stroller friendly. Register here.

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The Christmas Bird Count for Kids and Youth takes place Dec. 26 to 28, 2020. Last year’s count attracted several families. This year’s event includes COVID precautions. (Explorer Science Club photo)

The Christmas Bird Count for Kids and Youth takes place Dec. 26 to 28, 2020. Last year’s count attracted several families. This year’s event includes COVID precautions. (Explorer Science Club photo)

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