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