During the third annual Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 20, 18 species of birds were identified in Chestermere.
“The Christmas Bird Count went really well this year. We had 10 people counting birds this year which was excellent and the best participation thus far,” said Chestermere resident, and Christmas Bird Count Organizer, Don Cassidy.
During the Christmas Bird Count, the weather was almost too warm to have birds coming to bird feeders in backyards. However, three teams of two bird watchers drove within the designated Christmas Bird Count circle which helped add to the count.
“A few surprises of which we were really thrilled about. In this year’s count there were over 1000 Canada Geese, some Dark-Eyed Juncos, White- Breasted Nuthatches, a Great Horned Owl, Grey Partridges, and Pine Siskins,” Cassidy said.
Throughout the day, one Downy Woodpecker was spotted, one Great Horned Owl, three Blue Jays, four Dark-Eyed Junco’s, four Red-Breasted Nuthatches, five Pine Siskin’s, five Black Capped Chickadee’s, five Northern Flickers, five Common Ravens, six White-Breasted Nuthatches, eight Grey Partridges, nine American Crow’s, 18 American Song Sparrows, 23 House Finches, 68 Black Billed Magpies, 137 House Sparrows, 358 Rock Pigeons, and 1264 Canada Geese.
“The results will be sent to the Audubon Society and as this is the third Christmas Bird Count, we are building a database for this area that may in the future be used in studies of bird trends in population and migration as examples,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy started the Christmas Bird Count after moving to Chestermere, as he wanted to know what was flying around.
Cassidy’s ultimate goal for the Christmas Bird Count has always been 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.
“The Christmas Bird Count will provide a snapshot of what’s going on and will make people more aware of what’s out there,” he said.
Cassidy began bird watching seriously after retiring 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. 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,” he said.
Soon after his wife became interested in bird watching as well.
“She’s my sidekick,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy has always enjoyed outdoor hobbies, as he was an avid fisherman.
“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.
For Cassidy, it’s not only the pursuit of seeing a bird he has never seen before that he enjoys, but he also enjoys sharing the experience with like-minded people.
“They are all very observant, very thoughtful, really gracious, gentle people. It’s amazing. The part that I like is there is no harm done. It’s just an appreciation for what’s alive,” Cassidy said.
Without the support of the bird watchers, the Christmas Bird Count wouldn’t have been possible.
“A thank you to Brittany, Dawn, Brad, Lorraine, Dave, Andy, Charlene, Teresa, Elaine for their participation in making this research event very successful,” Cassidy said.