Sharp Shinned Hawk, Port Maitland, Nova Scotia

Counting Birds
The Christmas season really starts for me this weekend – it’s time for the annual Christmas Bird Count! When we moved from the USA to the Annapolis Valley, in 1970 when I was 15 years old, one of the first people I met was one of my Dad’s co-workers at Acadia University – Dr. Merritt Gibson. Dr Gibson was a very kind and wonderful man, and he was an avid naturalist, so of course we hit it off immediately. The first year we lived in the Valley, I came home and Dr. Gibson arranged for me to work with the group he had assembled for a bird count. I’ve been involved in bird counts ever since.
The idea of a count is to have a group go around and record every individual bird they see, and then at the end tally the total birds and species seen for the day. The counts are useful for those who track bird populations and other scientific efforts, and are a lot of fun to do.
Of course, I do counts regularly here at home as well, through my feeder watching. This year we’ve got a little drama going as we have a couple of Northern harriers resident on the property, which keeps the mice on their toes, but we also have a Sharp Shinned Hawk who has taken a keen interest in our feeder! One minute I can look out and see dozens of goldfinches, chickadees, cardinals and assorted sparrows, and the next they all disappear. If I look carefully – the hawk is probably nearby.
While this kind of “bird feeding” isn’t what most have in mind, it is part of the cycle of life in a very rural area. Lots of animals prey on the birds – the worst of which are domestic cats, worse because it’s needless to let them wander and so kill birds. A number of my friends have cats and keep them safely inside or under control, which is something that would really help the birds out if more people did.
If you see me on Sunday, I’ll probably be out with camera and binoculars and my tally sheet. After all, it’s Christmas!