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By Yousif Attia, Christmas Bird Count Coordinator, Birds Canada

Birds have long been tied to our holiday traditions, from cardinals and Blue Jays with snowy backdrops adorning our greeting cards, to songs about birds that date back to the late 1700s. The Twelve Days of Christmas, which is thought to be of French origin, describes the giving of 12 gifts, six of which are birds! Birds remain important to us during holiday gatherings, whether that be on a plate or in the field. And for many Canadian wild bird enthusiasts, the holidays mean it’s time for the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

Some traditions change with time (plant-based turkey, anyone?), but one thing that has remained consistent is that the CBC is just as much about people as it is about birds. We want to celebrate the dedicated people who are part of the CBC tradition. That’s why we’re inviting each of you to share your CBC story! Whether you’ve been freezing your toes off for 50 years straight or your interest was sparked for the first time in recent years, we’re sure you have a story to tell. Have you ever found a rare bird or a lifer on a CBC? Perhaps you made a best friend on a CBC or met your lifelong partner?

Everyone is welcome, so please help us learn more about you and the CBC community by filling out this quick questionnaire.

Canadians have been involved in CBCs from the very beginning in 1900, when Frank M. Chapman proposed the switch from shooting birds to counting them. That Christmas Day, a community was born that included a small group of people who shared Chapman’s vision. In Canada, the community grew from two count circles to over 450 today.

Now, hundreds of Canadians reach for their toques, binoculars and notebooks, and head outside to identify and count birds. Others spend a portion of the day looking out their windows and keeping tabs on who visits their feeders. Either way, the CBC would not be possible without the efforts of this community of volunteers.

Volunteers like Martin Parker of Peterborough, ON, for example, who will be participating in his 60th consecutive CBC this year! Martin is pictured below in a clipping (second from the left) from the Peterborough Examiner (1967) gearing up with others in preparation for the 68th Christmas Bird Count season. Even now, Martin goes above and beyond by serving as compiler for not one but two CBCs in Ontario. Congratulations to Martin for reaching the milestone of six decades of being a CBC champion!

Just like Martin, you’re an important part of the CBC. So once again, we invite you to get in touch and share your CBC story with us.

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Martin Parker Photo: Jeff Tribe
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Peterborough Examiner, 1967

Please keep safety top of mind, and follow all mandated local health and safety guidelines for your area with respect to Covid-19.

Covid-19 has temporarily changed the way we interact, and, for the second year in a row, many in-person post-count gatherings are not going ahead. This is disappointing because the CBC has always been a social event for many. The fun of the community aspect of CBCs shouldn’t be overlooked since it’s a time to meet new friends and reconnect with old friends in the shared interest of wild birds. It is important for us to find other ways to stay connected, and hopefully return to a normal way of things before too long.

Despite the pandemic, and perhaps because of it, there has been an increased interest in birds and nature. Many have found that watching birds brings a comforting distraction during unpredictable times, and an endless source of entertainment. In this way, the CBC benefits not just birds, but the entire community. If you’ve never been involved or haven’t participated in a while, then perhaps it’s time to pick up the tradition. Visit birdscanada.org/cbc to learn more about how the CBC helps birds, read a summary of the results of last year’s CBC, and find out how to get involved.

Thank you for your contributions, and enjoy a safe and happy CBC!

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Snow Bunting Photo: Yousif Attia
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