Alberta’s Christmas Bird Counts 2015

December brings an important event for birders — the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC)!

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running wildlife census in North America. It was started over 100 years ago by the National Audubon Society in the United States, and in Canada is co-ordinated by Bird Studies Canada. The information collected by thousands of volunteers makes up one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife survey data, and provides scientists with important information on populations and distribution of wintering birds.

Christmas Bird Counts are conducted on a single day for each community between December 14th and January 5th. Counts are carried out within a 24 km (15 mile) diameter circle that stays the same from year to year. Birders count every bird they see or hear, and all the data are compiled at the end of the day, sometimes at a get-together or potluck.

There are two different types of counters: field observers and feederwatchers. Field observers cover a portion of the count circle individually or with a small group. Feederwatchers count the birds at their feeders, often in the comfort of a warm house, which makes it the perfect activity for young children, seniors, and those in colder climates.

New and beginning birders are always welcome and encouraged to participate. Most organizers place an experienced birder on each team, so don’t be concerned if you’re still learning the ropes of birding.

I’ve been participating in my area’s count for six seasons, and this year I’m organizing our count in Vermilion.

There are lots of counts taking place all over Alberta, and while the Nature Alberta website has a list of some of the counts, I thought I’d make a more comprehensive “At a Glance” list. You can find a PDF version here. If you see that your community isn’t included, please let me know in the comments below.


To find all the counts happening across Canada, go to the Bird Studies Canada’s map here.

To find all the counts happening across the United States and Canada, go to the National Audubon Society’s map here.


Review: The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds


I used to take art lessons and some of my drawings and paintings were pretty good, thanks to guidance from a very good art teacher, but she stopped teaching after a few years, which was very disappointing. I quit drawing after the lessons quit, but last summer I decided I wanted to start again. I want to go be able to draw an identifiable field sketch, and good drawing, or painting of the birds I see.

Last summer I learned about a new book coming out on drawing birds, The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws. It sounded promising and then I saw that David Sibley had written the forward so I was especially interested, because I love Mr. Sibley’s art! The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds is published by Heyday Book and supported by the National Audubon Society.

I was hoping to receive the book for Christmas and I did (thanks, Mom)! It was one of my favorite presents, and I couldn’t wait to start reading it.

Mr. Laws is a wonderful artist which intimidated me a bit when I first started the book. My first thought was, maybe I should rethink my idea of learning to draw, but from the beginning Mr. Laws explains everything very simply and with great detail. The book gives step-by-step instructions for drawing a couple of species (warbler, ruddy duck, sparrow); tricks on correct leg position and angle, a detail I’ve struggled with before; help on drawing tails; and much more. It’s also fun to go through the book and look at the beautiful drawings. The book is very well put together and it’s very visually appealing.

My favorite part of the book is the page about drawing eyes which Mr. Laws says, just as for humans, are the “windows of the soul”. I always have trouble with bird eyes and can’t seem to get them right, but the page is very helpful. As Mr Laws writes,

Because our attention is so drawn to the eyes, we easily exaggerate them in our sketches, making them either too large or overworked and prominent. Keep it simple and lively. Sometimes it is difficult to see the eye. You can leave it out if you cannot see it.

I never before thought you could leave out the eye, but now I know otherwise!


This is another very helpful page of the book on correct wing proportions,


I haven’t started any drawings yet, because I’m reading through the whole book and want to make sure I can learn as much as I can before I start. But this will likely be my go to book for drawing birds, and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to learn how to draw birds, or brush-up on rusty skills!

You can buy it from John Muir Law’s website, from Heyday Books, or from your favorite bookseller.

Christmas Bird Count

Today, I participated in this year’s Christmas Bird Count. I counted with two friends, and we were able to count a lot of birds.

If you don’t participate today, you still have until January 5, 2012 to be part of the CBC.

If you would like to read more about the CBC you can visit these links:

National Audubon Society 

Bird Studies Canada