Back­yard Bird Count this week­end easy — just look out your win­dow and count

Cape Breton Post - - REFLECTIONS -

KAM­LOOPS, B.C. (CP) — To re­searchers, the num­ber of spar­rows in peo­ple’s back­yards is of­ten just as im­por­tant as how many spot­ted owls there are in B.C.’s old­growth forests.

Spar­rows may be more com­mon than spot­ted owls, but the num­bers and range of the lit­tle brown birds are im­por­tant in­di­ca­tors about is­sues such as cli­mate change, B.C. bird ex­pert Dick Can­nings says.

Changes in spar­row num­bers or how far they range north and south in North Amer­ica of­fer valu­able in­sights into the chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

Spar­row num­bers have been on the de­cline in re­cent years, Can­nings said. Sci­en­tists are just now beginning to won­der why.

The loss of com­mon species needs to be seen as just as alarm­ing as the loss of so-called key­note species such as spot­ted owls.

“There are con­cerns about en­dan­gered species, but there is an in­creas­ing (aware­ness) on the part of con­ser­va­tion­ists that it is bet­ter to keep com­mon things com­mon,” he said.

“A lot of peo­ple will ar­gue it is more im­por­tant to count the spar­rows.”

That makes the an­nual Back­yard Bird Count all that much more im­por­tant, he said, as count­ing lit­tle brown and white birds can only be ac­com­plished with many, many sets of eyes.

Can­nings, na­tional pro­gram di­rec­tor with Bird Stud­ies Canada, said this year’s count takes place from yes­ter­day to Mon­day. Every­one is en­cour­aged to take part, he said, by sign­ing onto the study’s web­site, down­load­ing a check­list and looking out the win­dow. Lit­er­ally. The back­yard bird count is ex­actly that, Can­nings said. While en­thu­si­as­tic bird­ers might head out in wider search of Lewis’s wood­pecker or some other rare species, sight­ings of av­er­age and or­di­nary birds flit­ting through the cedars and trees of back­yards are just as im­por­tant to the study.

Count the star­lings and the crows, too, as well as ravens, stel­lar jays and finches.

“There are lots of peo­ple who like to watch birds, so we harness that tal­ent and en­ergy and we get a lot of good data,” he said. “ You don’t have to go far, just look out your win­dow ... and write down the birds you see. “It’s re­ally very sim­ple.” The Back­yard Bird Count’s web­site can be found at http://www.bird­source.org/gbbc.

Can­nings said res­i­dents with bird feed­ers will have an ex­tra ad­van­tage, as feed­ing sta­tions in­evitably con­cen­trate bird num­bers in the win­ter.

Feed­ers are of­ten a hot topic in the bird­ing world, he noted. Some be­lieve they do more harm than good.

In some cases, feed­ers en­cour­age birds to stay around an area when they or­di­nar­ily might not, but Can­nings said he does not be­lieve that has a neg­a­tive im­pact on birds.

Greg Kolodziejzyk is pre­par­ing to em­bark on a 4,800-kilo­me­tre jour­ney to par­adise — but he won’t be book­ing a plane ticket or board­ing a cruise­liner to get there.

The Al­berta ad­ven­turer al­ready holds world records for the most dis­tance trav­elled by hu­man power both on land and on wa­ter. But for his lat­est chal­lenge, he’s plan­ning to shat­ter his own high-wa­ter mark.

This sum­mer, Kolodziejzyk plans to pedal a cus­tom­ized hu­man-pow­ered boat on a solo jour­ney across the Pa­cific Ocean from Canada to Hawaii. The trip, slated to be­gin July 1, is ex­pected to take be­tween 50 and 80 days.

On Mon­day, he’ll set off with his friend, Bryon Howard, for a sea trial of the pedal-pow­ered ex­pe­di­tion boat WiTHiN.

Kolodziejzyk, now 48, was in his early 30s when he sold his soft­ware com­pany to Adobe Sys­tems, mak­ing him a mil­lion­aire. At the time, he said he was looking for some­thing new to chal­lenge him­self.

“I was kind of typ­i­cal at the time, busi­ness­man spending most of my time sit­ting be­hind a desk and my health wasn’t great,” he re­called in a phone in­ter­view from Cal­gary. “I was a good 50 pounds over­weight and I fig­ured now is prob­a­bly a good time to look into get­ting into phys­i­cal shape.

He en­tered his first Iron­man triathalon in 2001, and has since com-

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