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Come count the birds

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 22/06) - Yellowknife's Christmas Bird Count will be held on New Year's Eve this year.

The event first officially began in North America in 1900, and has been an annual event in Yellowknife for about 30 years.

Ecology North conducts the count with an army of volunteers.

"It's a social event," said project director Bob Bromley, "a good way to get people out in the great outdoors enjoying nature."

The bird count is a full day activity. Bird enthusiasts will meet at Ecology North in the morning, bright and early at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 31, according to Bromley.

After having their bird-loving hearts warmed by hot chocolate, the counters will divide the city into sections. Then the group will break into pairs and "launch off into the city," according to long-time bird counter Suzanne Carriere, also a member of Ecology North.

They spend the morning counting all the birds they spot, by species.

It's gets pretty competitive, said Carriere.

"When you come back you compare results, so it turns out to be a party at the end," she said.

Yellowknife usually tallies 1,200 to 1,700 birds, said Bromley.

Ravens, he said with a laugh, make up the great majority.

In fact, there is an unofficial raven competition, said Carriere. Yellowknife and other raven cities, such as Fort McMurray and Whitehorse, compare results every year to see who wins.

"There's no prize," she said. "But we always do it anyway."

Yellowknife claimed the title last year, according to tallied results, with 1,218 ravens counted in the city.

Beyond ravens,"there are always surprises," said Bromley.

Some highlights have included a Bufflehead duck, goshawks, great horned owls, and a Glaucos gull.

"The only gull we've ever seen," said Bromley. "It was sitting on top of running vehicles to stay warm."

After the morning's count, people spread further afield, heading into the area beyond Yellowknife, covering a diameter of 15 miles.

It's a great day spent outdoors, said Bromley, and no one need fear getting up that early on a Sunday.

"We always start with hot chocolate and flap our wings a bit before we go out," he said.