One of the most common birds on the count is the American robin pictured here surrounded by Hawthorne berries.

Passion to preserve birds and habitat drives Langley birder

Love of birds around the globe drives a local man’s quest to promote conservation.

Michael Klotz got started birding when his grandpa, Jack, gave him his first field guide and a pair of binoculars at the age of eight.

Blue jays and American goldfinch are still burnt into his memory from his days visiting his grandparents in Winnipeg.

Fast forward a few decades, and the 46-year-old Langley birdwatcher has since travelled extensively through North and Central America – along with the Caribbean and a sprinkle of Africa thrown in – in search of new and exotic species of birds.

He’s currently sighted more than 850 different species, and that number is always growing.

His quest to learn more about his fine-feathered friends and neighbours began in earnest for Klotz in 1989, while studying zoology at a college in Santa Barbara.

It’s “born out of a passion for birding and the need to protect the wild areas of the world that promote healthy diversity and protection of the anchor species of that region,” Klotz explained of his near obsession with birding.

That same motivation is part of what drives him to participate every year in the annual Audobon Christmas bird count – and what motivated him to take on the organizing role of this year’s event.

This year, the count was held on Jan. 2 and he joined 20 other birders and field naturalists in mapping sightings of birds spotted between 200th and 232nd Streets, and from Springbrook Road south to 48th Avenue in Langley.

Langley is just part of what is designated nationally as the White Rock zone for the count, which actually takes in birds spotted in Blaine, Surrey, and part of Langley, he explained.

It may have been beautiful and sunny during last week’s count, he said, but temperatures were still as low as minus six, and the terrain was covered with snow and ice –making it difficult for participants to access some of the traditional territory to conduct their counting, Klotz explained.

This year in Langley, the team of counters – many returning members of the Langley Field Naturalists – spotted 61 species of birds, and 4,417 individual birds.

That was a drop, he said, because of weather compared to 2015, when they spotted 67 species and 7,934 individual birds.

Numbers, he said, are still not tallied for the complete White Rock bird count, but he expects there will be a drop across the board not only because it was more difficult for people to get around, but also because many of the birds sought shelter due to the colder temperatures.

Nevertheless, for more than seven hours, teams of four to five people took notes and pictures of all the birds they could see. Then, most came together at the end to compare stories, share encounters, and admire each others photos, he said.

“The best bird for Langley is most likely an over-wintering green heron…They are not common here at the best of times, but usually head to Mexico for winter. The furthest north they usually are recorded in winter on the West Coast is the Columbia valley on the Oregon/Washington border,” he elaborated.

Like so many avid birders, Klotz has taken up nature photography.

The photography, he said, came about as an organic experience when he came across a site that showed that identifying was so much easier when he had an image that won’t fly away. This prompted his purchase of a used camera and long lens from a local Internet classified site. Five cameras later and a tad more experience (the early pictures prove it) and he has a website – www.thebirdblogger.com.

While Klotz revels in wandering the flood plains, mountains, lakes, backroads, ocean shores, rivers, forests, and even farmers fields hunting for different birds, and taking thousands of pictures, there’s much more to his quest.

It’s the “citizen science,” as he calls it, and the compilation of hands-on data during ventures such as the bird counts, that he feels is imperative to conservation and preservation of birds.

Understanding how everything from weather, and development, to climate change and human patterns impact on the bird population is key, he said.

For instance, the song bird population in North America is declining,  Klotz explained. And, to prevent that from worsening, society has to understand where and why it is happening. Counts like this give a real-time picture of what’s going on.

Klotz’s goal, ultimately, is to promote conservation by saving tracts of land in crucial areas where birds are critically endangered.

So, his hope is to be able to purchase land in and around important bird habitat throughout the world allowing corridors to be built between green spaces – which allow for safe transport from one to another of the birds.

Identifying problem areas and dramatic changes in patterns, he said moves him one step closer to making these ideas a reality.

For more information about the annual Christmas bird count or two other counts this spring (Derby Reach/Brae Island on Jan. 31 and Glen Valley Spring Bird Count May 30), visit the Langley Field Naturalists website at: www.langleyfieldnaturalists.org.

 

CAPTION: Michael Klotz/Special to the Langley Advance

Some of the only Mourning Doves in the Lower Mainland.

CAPTION: Michael Klotz/Special to the Langley Advance

A juvenile red-tailed hawk on the fence at Springbrook Road near Glover Road.

CAPTION: Michael Klotz/Special to the Langley Advance

Taken from the grounds of the MIlner Downs, Michael Klotz captures this view of the Golden Ears Mountains.

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