Annual Christmas Bird Count finds nearly 60 different species in and around Lethbridge

Ken Orich at Henderson Lake on December 19, 2020 for the Annual Christmas Bird Count. Eloise Therien / Global News

On Saturday, more than 70 volunteers took to the windy elements in search of birds residing within Lethbridge for kickoff of the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Ken Orich, a longtime birder, says he has been coordinating the local count since for the last five or six years – but its history goes much further back that that.

“Before 1900 on Christmas Day, people used to go out and shoot everything they could. Birds and animals and all that,” he said. “Whoever shot the most was kind [of] the winner of the day.”

He says that changed when it was decided to count the birds for research purposes, instead of hunting them.

“All the data that I collect is submitted to the Audubon Society and Birds Canada, and then it becomes part of a worldwide database,” Orich explained.

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Now officially in its 121st year, the North America Christmas Bird Count is the largest-running Citizen Science project, with more than 2,000 communities participating.

In Lethbridge, Orich says the count takes place within a 38 different sections of the city, as well as 6 country areas. The count typically averages 42 different species of birds, tallied by dozens of volunteers.

Orich says preliminary data as of Sunday shows this year’s count surpassing the average, with a total of 58 species of birds — including the rare Pacific Wren, which has never before been reported on the Lethbridge Christmas Bird Count.

Despite windspeeds upwards of 60 km/hour on Saturday, Orich says the count was a success.

“This year is probably the best participation we’ve had,” he said.

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