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Hudson Christmas Bird count still going strong 73 years after its start

  • Jean Demers will be participating in the Hudson Bird Count on Dec. 29.
    Jean Demers will be participating in the Hudson Bird Count on Dec. 29.
    Photo credit: Dave Sidaway, The Gazette

The Montreal Christmas Bird Count is not the only bird census taking place in the Montreal-area this holiday season.The Hudson Christmas Bird Count started in 1939 and, this year, takes place the Saturday after Christmas.

On December 29, close to 45 volunteers will be out counting and identifying as many birds as they possibly can in Hudson, Vaudreuil, Dorion, Les Cèdres, Coteau du Lac, St. Clet and parts of Oka and Île Perrot. The bird count covers the entire area within a 24-kilometre radius of Cooper’s Aviation, a small airport in St. Lazare.

“The only thing you need is binoculars because it is hard to identify the birds with just your (only your) eyes,” said Jean Demers, the Hudson count’s main organizer.

Demers, a Kirkland retiree has participated in the annual event for the past seven years, the last two as its chief compiler. A former hospital administrator, Demers will once again be crunching the numbers when all the tally cards are handed in at the end of the day.

The Hudson count is one of 33 in Quebec and, close to 80 in Ontario that collect data in Eastern Canada that provides ornithologists and other scientists with valuable insights into bird populations, migration patterns, food availability during the breeding season, even climate change.

Since its start 73 years ago, he said, a total of 139 different bird species have been observed as part of the citizen-science project, 67 species alone in 2006, a banner year that also saw the highest number of birds ever counted, 16,031.

Four species — the Black-capped Chickadee, the Hairy Woodpecker, the White-breasted Nuthatch and the Blue Jay — have been spotted every year of the count. But there are often surprises — in 2010, 11 Snowy Owls were spotted in Hudson and far from their Arctic home.

Demers admits he and Clémence Soulard, his partner are passionate birders. They keep five feeders in the yard well stocked with sunflower seeds, suet, niger seed and peanuts so that they can enjoy songbirds all year round.

Since retiring 12 years ago, they have also taken birding trips to Columbia, Texas, Belize, Senegal, France, the Galápagos Islands and Ontario’s famed southernmost bird sanctuary, Point Pelee National Park.

They also participate in Montreal Christmas Bird Count, this year held December 15. It covers the 24-kilometre area that radiates out from Sherbrooke St. W. and Westminister Ave. in Montreal West.

But the 67-year-old Demers stressed that you don’t have to be a seasoned birder to get involved and, have fun. You can count birds at your feeder or become a field participant. The area covered by the Hudson count will be divided into 17 different zones and, each zone is assigned at least one experienced birder.

After a day of counting, he said, everyone gathers to swap stories over coffee and food, this year from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., at the St. Hubert on St. Charles Ave. in Vaudreuil.

It’s never a bust, Demers said of the count. “Birds have to feed. Storm or not, the birds will be there.”

For more information on the Hudson Christmas Bird Count go to the Bird Protection Quebec website at http://www.pqspb.org/bpq/ Enter Hudson Bird Count in search box.

ccornacchia@montrealgazette.com

Twitter: @cornacchiaGAZ

 

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