Phil Henderson, Bruce Webb and Mike Klotz are walking through Derby Reach Park near Fort Langley when Klotz quietly directs their attention to some underbrush just off the trail.
Henderson and Webb draw their binoculars from their holsters for a better look, while Klotz pulls out his smart phone to record the sighting.
“Good eyes,” Henderson says as the trio comes to a stop so the bird in the bushes can be recorded.
It is the seventh year of the annual Derby-Reach Brae Island count, a one-day intensive sweep by volunteers armed with binoculars and clipboards.
“We count every bird we see and hear,” Henderson tells a visitor from the Times.
The 2017 count has been organized by Henderson, an environmental consultant, who described it as a way to get people to know their local parks better.
“It’s for the people, to get the community involved,” Henderson explains.
“To learn more about the parks, the birds, the environment in general.”
This year, two dozen people gathered at St. George’s Anglican Church in Fort Langley early in the morning on Saturday, Feb. 18, and split up into five groups to fan out through the two local parks, covering an area between 208 Street and Fort Langley.
Normally, the count would be carried out in January, but a lot of participants were down with the flu this year, so the event had to be postponed.
Before heading out, Henderson was optimistic the delay might actually mean better results.
“We had such snowy conditions earlier, I’m thinking that now that the snow has lifted, there’s a lot of food, (and) a lot of hungry birds (that couldn’t get at the food).”
His prediction was borne out by the best results in the history of the count.
The volunteers identified a total of 1,168 birds and 51 species, breaking last year’s previous highest total of 48 species (though not the highest number of individual birds).
While Henderson stresses the one-day count doesn’t represent “rigorous data,” it is still useful information.
It is shared with the Metro Vancouver regional authority, since the survey takes place in Metro parks and with the Derby Reach Brae Island Partners Association, who organized the very first survey.
The Langley Field Naturalists also gets the data because the group does all the data entry and arranges for for the volunteers to use the church.
To see about participating in the count next year, email Phil Henderson at email@example.com.