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Huron Fringe Field Naturalists are all about the birds

November 24, 2022

The final meeting of the Huron Fringe Field Naturalists for this year was all about birds, with more than 50 members gathering Nov. 22nd in the auditorium of the Ripley-Huron Community Centre.

Club member and expert birder James Turland is the Kincardine compiler for the Christmas Bird Count. His presentation about the bird count began with an explanation of the background circumstances that led to the first count on Christmas Day, 1900. Prior to 1900, when hunting was a common activity, hunters would form teams and engage in a competition to kill the most birds and animals in one day.

Frank Chapman, an ornithologist and member of the Audubon Society, proposed replacing the wholesale slaughter with a Christmas Bird Census. The first year, 25 counts were held in two countries (Canada and the United States) by 27 participants. Now, 123 years later, more than 70,000 volunteers in 20 countries in nearly 2,500 locations, participate in the count and contribute vast amounts of data which is used to assess the health of bird populations and guide conservation efforts.

This year’s Kincardine count takes place Dec. 15, with teams of volunteer birders covering a 24-kilometre circle, encompassing the area north of Kincardine to south of Zion Road and east nearly to Bruce County Road 1. Homeowners are encouraged to count birds at their feeders and record the species and numbers.

More information and feeder watch recording sheets can be found at:

James Turland’s presentation on the history of the Christmas Bird Count includes historical background and data; photos by Christine Roberts

Turland then introduced the guest speaker, Kiah Jasper, a young, Bruce County birding sensation whose presentation was much-anticipated by club members.

Jasper is having what is known in birding as a “big year”- a personal challenge to identify as many bird species as possible in Ontario in one calendar year. He has been spectacularly successful, breaking the previous Ontario record of 346 species in early October and surpassing it to currently hold a record of 356 species.

Kiah Jasper identifies his 347th species Oct. 10 in the company of previous record holder Jeremy Bensette

Along the way, he has travelled more than 80,000 kilometres, visited every county in the province and even ventured briefly, on foot, into Nunavut.

His presentation was replete with beautiful photos of birds and landscapes. His storytelling skills are as almost good as his photography and bird identification skills, as he recounted tales of sleeping in sub-zero conditions and the trials and tribulations of chasing elusive avian subjects.

The audience marvelled at his passion and enjoyed learning about the extensive planning and strategies employed to maximize sightings based on knowledge of migratory routes, timing, preferred conditions and weather patterns.

Local birding enthusiast Kiah Jasper presents photos and stories from his big year

The bird-centric meeting ended with Turland sharing tips for making suet, and a door prize draw sent three lucky club members home with suet cakes for their feeders.

The local naturalist club will not meet again until the fourth Tuesday of February, for a noon potluck lunch and photo contest, although outings are planned in the interim.

Visitors and guests are always welcome and contact information for inquiries can be found at:

Huron Fringe Field Naturalists member and birder James Turland (left) introduces guest speaker Kiah Jasper at the Nov. 22 meeting

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