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  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 06:00 am

THAT'S ONE – A worldwide bird count is taking place this weekend. Local birders are encouraged to participate.
THAT'S ONE – A worldwide bird count is taking place this weekend. Local birders are encouraged to participate.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Global bird count on now

Local bird watchers are encouraged to get out and get counting this long weekend as part of a worldwide bird count.

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count started Feb. 14 and runs until Feb. 17. The count – run by Bird Studies Canada, the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – is an international effort to track bird populations.

Originally restricted to North American backyards when it started 17 years ago, the count widened to cover the whole globe last year after vacationing counters complained about missing out on the fun, said Dick Cannings, bird count co-ordinator for Bird Studies Canada.

Now, you can do your count anytime during this four-day period anywhere you want, Cannings said.

“It’s really blossomed into quite a huge event.”

Last year’s count included results from about 111 countries and featured about 4,000 species – about 40 per cent of the birds known to science.

“I haven’t seen 4,000 species of bird in my life,” Cannings said.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a fun activity meant to get people interested in birding and bird research, Cannings said. While it’s much less formal than the regular Christmas bird counts, its results are still audited by professionals, and have helped scientists discover mass movements in finches and crossbills.

To participate, residents simply have to spend at least 15 minutes in one location noting the number and types of bird they see, Cannings said. Once that’s done, they can register their results can go to birdcount.org. Residents can submit as many counts as they like.

A full report on the count will likely be available in about a month.

Galapagos vacation

A St. Albert naturalist is inviting local residents on a virtual trip to the Galapagos Islands next week.

Local naturalist Ludo Bogaert is giving a talk on the Galapagos Islands to the Edmonton Nature Club next Feb. 21 as part of the club’s monthly speaker’s series.

Bogaert said he went to the islands last fall and had been asked to speak about his trip to the club.

“I hope I will captivate the audience.”

Bogaert said he and his wife Ria had wanted to go to the Galapagos for about a decade but couldn’t due to health reasons. When he learned last year of a trip to the region through the Alberta Motor Association, he jumped at the chance.

The Galapagos are a remote island range about 1,000 kilometres west of Ecuador. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the islands are famous for their tremendous variety of bird life – bird life that helped Charles Darwin formulate the theory of evolution.

“It’s extremely interesting as far as wildlife is concerned,” Bogaert said, as most of the birds and animals there are pretty tame.

You can walk up to lounging sea lions, for example, or crouch next to ancient giant tortoises for a closeup.

You can even get propositioned by a blue-footed booby. These silly-looking seabirds live on the islands and are famous for their bright blue feet, which they show off during mating dances.

Bogaert recalled spotting one just six yards away from him.

“I said, ‘Hello there, blue-footed booby!’ And I waved my hand.”

That’s when the booby (a female) started doing its famous high-stepping “look-at-my-awesome-feet” dance.

“I felt kind of embarrassed,” Bogaert said.

Bogaert said he planned to share photos and tales of the many animals he encountered on the Galapagos, as well as the ones he missed.

“It’s the trip of a lifetime.”

Bogaert’s talk is from 7 to 9 p.m. next Friday at King’s University College. Admission is by donation. Visit edmontonnatureclub.org for details.


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