New Chestermere resident, Don Cassidy, is encouraging locals to become involved in documenting the ecological state of the area with the first Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 29.
“I wanted to start [a Christmas Bird Count] in Chestermere and get more people involved,” said Cassidy.
“I wanted to have one locally, and let people know what’s flying around here,” he said.
Bird watchers can participate in the Christmas Bird Count in their own back yards, or by driving between 84 St. southeast, Highway 564, Range Road 263, and Township Road 231.
“People can devote 15 minutes to it, look periodically at bird feeders throughout the day, and then take the highest count they see at one time,” Cassidy said.
He added, “In our backyard during the day, we’ll have a flock of house sparrows come in, it can vary from 20, to 60 sometimes. We’ll be looking out there, and the whole back yard is just one solid mass of feathers and movement.”
Cassidy’s ultimate goal for the Christmas Bird Count is to identify the different species that make their home, or travel stop during migration in Chestermere.
“The health of the planet is always tied to the number of species on the planet, birds are a pretty good indicator of how things are,” Cassidy said.
He added, “The Christmas Bird Count will provide a snapshot of what’s going on and will make people more aware of what’s out there.”
Cassidy began bird watching seriously two years ago, after he retired from teaching.
“It was a lifelong interest, more generally. The first bird that caught my eye, I was about 11-years-old, but now was time to actually pursue it,” Cassidy said.
“I got a camera and started walking through the woods, I wanted to take a closer look at what’s living out there,” Cassidy said.
He added, soon after his wife became interested in bird watching as well.
“She’s my side kick,” Cassidy said.
Although bird watching is a fresh hobby of Cassidy’s, he has enjoyed outdoor hobbies for the majority of his life.
“Most of my life I’ve been a fisherman, I kind of changed up hobbies a little bit,” Cassidy said.
“You get much more in tune with what’s going on out there in the environment, and then it’s all catch and release.
“It’s a hobby that is really low key, it doesn’t really cost a whole lot to get involved in,” Cassidy said.
He added, “Once you get a picture of a bird that you can enjoy, you’ve done no harm to the bird or the environment, it’s a fairly quiet type of pursuit.”
For Cassidy, it’s not only the pursuit of seeing of a bird he has never seen before that he enjoys, he also enjoys sharing the experience with like-minded people.
“They are all very observant, very thoughtful, really gracious, gentle people. It’s amazing,” Cassidy said.
He added, “The part that I like is there is no harm done. It’s just an appreciation for what’s alive.”
Cassidy is hoping to get more people involved in the Christmas Bird Count, and to get more people interested in bird watching in the Chestermere area.
To get involved in the Christmas Bird Count, please contact Don Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org.