This fall and winter, the Cumberland Community Forest community has been turning its attention to the CCFS Biodiversity Initiative. This initiative is all about engaging with our community in year-round biodiversity education, research, and action to support habitat protection and ecosystem health in the forests and wetlands surrounding Cumberland. This work helps us to build strong arguments for future land protection!
The Biodiversity Initiative includes Species at Risk research, Science Pubs, BioBlitzes, invasive removal, Western Toad Protection Program, Mapping, School Learning Kits, Cumberland Bat Project, Cumberland Fungus Fest, and the upcoming Cumberland Winter Bird Project. The whole community is invited to join in!
The Cumberland Winter Bird Project is a self guided public health friendly community project focused on getting to know the winter birds in our backyard, forests, and wetlands over the months of December and January. Did you know the Comox Valley is one of the most significant areas for wintering and migratory waterfowl and waterbirds in British Columbia? Yup!
Get out into nature, participate in citizen science, build community knowledge, and celebrate the avian biodiversity of the Cumberland Forest.
Each 2-week period has a theme complete with Zoom workshops, learning links, activities and more.
- December 1-15: Local Birds, Species at Risk and Bird Conservation
Get to know the birds of the Cumberland Forest, learn to use iNaturalist and engage in citizen science, find out why the Comox Valley is one of the top winter bird spots in all of BC!
- December 15-30: Heritage Art, Crafts and Storytelling
Stay tuned for links to art projects, colouring sheets, bird feeder making, and fun (and strange) bird art, stories, and traditions to enjoy over the holidays! Visit the facebook page for great links!
- January 1-15: Backyard Birds BioBlitz and Projects
Explore the birds that live in our back yards in Cumberland! How many birds can you observe right from your window or back deck? How can we support healthy bird populations in urban areas? Did you know there is a whole forest INSIDE the Village that birds call home? We are gathering data, capturing images, drawing pictures, learning bird songs and documenting our findings in our own back yards! Visit facebook for great links
- January 15-30: Wetland Birds BioBlitz and Projects
Wetlands flank the entire south east side of the Village of Cumberland and they are filled with birds of all kinds! In fact, did you know the Comox Valley is one of the most significant areas for wintering and migratory waterfowl and waterbirds in British Columbia? Let’s observe, photograph, draw and document the birds of the Cumberland Wetlands.
Sign up and be part of the CCFS Biodiversity Project on iNaturalist!
These workshops can be taken independently or join all three to build your skills and connect with others.
Dec 3rd at 7 pm – Learn how to use the iNaturalist app with CCFS Director Jason Straka and jump on board with upcoming BioBlitzes and the Winter Bird Project. Register HERE in advance for this quick 45 minute workshop.
Dec 17th at 7 pm – Learn how to use the iNaturalist app with Morrison Streamkeeper and iNaturalist bioblitzer Kathryn Clouston and get ready for the January BioBlitzes! Register HERE.
December 30th at 7 pm – Get oriented to the iNaturalist app and BioBlitzes in general with CCFS Director Jason Straka and learn how to be part of the fun. Register HERE
Join our CCFS Citizen Science Facebook Group, ask questions and share tips with other citizen scientists in Cumberland.
Great Links for Learning and Teaching
Stay tuned for details about our upcoming after school art workshops in partnership with Cumberland Community Schools Society in January with special guest facilitator Pam Twin!
Yellow Point Ecological Society – This organization exists to appreciate, protect and restore the ecosystems and watersheds in the Yellow Point area of Vancouver Island, and to inspire and support local residents and visitors to do the same. They have great VI backyard bird content including audio clips for identifying!
Audubon – Check out this online field guide to North American Birds
Avibase – Avibase is an extensive database information system about all birds of the world, containing over 37 million records about 10,000 species and 22,000 subspecies of birds. They have a specific page for Vancouver Island.
What Bird.com – Whatbird.com search engine used to identify birds of North America.
Comox Valley Nature – they folks exist “to know nature, and keep it worth knowing” and offer workshops, walks (when covid allows), interest pages and more. They have a Nature Viewing Guide for the Comox Valley as well.
Get Started – Get to Know the Local Winter Birds.
In the forest, this is a big winter for cones on Douglas-fir, meaning it is also a great year to see massive flocks of seed-eating finches such as Pine Siskins, Red Crossbills, and the more rare White-winged Crossbill.
In wetlands or open water, look for Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, and Wood Ducks in “club kid” mating plumage, bobbing their strangely shaped heads as they cruise the ponds looking for mates.
Steller’s Jays are now roving in flocks around alleys and backyards, as are Dark-eyed Juncos, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, and big flocks of American Robins.
In gardens, backyards, and around forest edges, listen for the raspy sound of the Anna’s Hummingbird and look for them visiting feeders all winter and chasing much larger birds from a prominent perch. Unlike the Rufuous Hummingbirds that show up in summer, Anna’s don’t migrate south for the winter, and start to nest in late winter/early spring.
Pacific Wrens also stick around in deep forest cover and can be seen hopping around in dense undergrowth or heard giving their extremely long, musical song. Higher in the canopy, you may see and hear Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a variety of woodpeckers.
Owls are another group of birds that start pairing up in the winter. At any time of night, or near dusk, in patches of big trees you may start to hear Barred Owls beginning their mating “duets” that sound like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Barred Owls are Cumberland’s most common owl, but you may also hear Great Horned, or some of our tiny and “at risk” species such as Northern Saw-whet Owl or Western Screech Owl – especially around lakes or wetlands.
Follow us on Facebook @protectcumberlandforest for bird themed posts throughout the project!
If you’ve seen or heard a bird you’d like help identifying, consider posting it on citizen science websites like eBird.org or iNaturalist.ca at www.inaturalist.org/projects/cumberland-forest-winter-bird-blitz