Annual feathered competition depends on young new leader

Competitive Christmas Bird Count slated for Dec. 19

Local birder Geoffrey Newell will lead the 13th annual Christmas Bird Count.

Local birder Geoffrey Newell will lead the 13th annual Christmas Bird Count.

Feathers will fly as Victoria aims to reclaim its bird count glory this winter.

In his lucky 13th year of the Christmas Bird Count, Geoffrey Newell leads the search team.

The 20-year-old Oak Bay man is well known among local bird watchers and takes over this year from Mike Edgell, who held the role for more than four decades.

“It’s an honour because … he’s being doing it for 42 excellent years. For him to pass it on to me, it’s a great honour,” Newell said. “I’ve always loved birds. Birding has been a huge passion of mine.”

Newell guides walks throughout the year, through Friends of Uplands Park and the Capital Regional District, and looks forward each year to the holiday edition.

“We say you don’t have to be a bird expert. We encourage all people to come and join. You don’t have to know your birds, you just have to know how to count,” Newell says.       “We’re going to cover all the birding hotspots in Oak Bay.”

Those inclined can meet at 8 a.m. on Dec. 19 at the ocean end of Rutland Road, rain or shine, and come for a while or stay all day.

“It’s to get an idea of how the birds are doing – it’s been going on for years and years and years – how species are increasing or decreasing,” he said. “It’s about understating more about the bird populations.”

During the annual Christmas Bird Count, more than 200 communities in North America are assigned standardized 15-mile diameter circles which encompasses much of Greater Victoria.

Things can get a little competitive, with Victoria holding the record of finding 154 species one year, Newell said. “Victoria and the Ladner zones are the top two in Canada. So we’re always battling for top spot. Last year Ladner beat us by one species,” Newell said.

Wear rubber boots, warm clothes and bring an umbrella, just in case. The schedule opts for a stop at the Oak Bay Marina around 11:30 a.m. for half-hour before continuing on to south Oak Bay with a finish around 3:30 p.m.

There’s also an alternative for the fair-weather watcher.

“You can do the feeder watch where you count the birds in your yard, and those final counts will also be added to the count,” Newell said.

Visit vicnhs.bc.ca to learn about feeder watch or sign up for another gathering in the region on Dec. 19.