North Island birders continued a 120-year-old tradition over the Christmas holidays.
More than 47 people took part in Christmas Bird Counts in Campbell River and on both Quadra and Cortes Islands.
The two areas help make up the 19 zones counted on Vancouver Island. Each is a 24-kilometre circle that remains constant from one year to the next.
In Campbell River, the count area is centred around Willow Point. It extends west to Lower Campbell Lake, east to the middle of the channel between Quadra and Cortes Island, north near Orange Point and south to just south of the mouth of the Oyster River.
On Cortes Island, it’s centred around Mansons Landing.
The Christmas Bird Counts must take place between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
Information collected gets added to the Christmas Bird Count, which at press time had 1,189 counts completed this year.
According to Bird Studies Canada, the Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in North America.
With more than 100 years of data, there’s a pretty good idea of what’s going on with bird populations in the western hemisphere.
The information collected can be used to inform population trends and where birds are.
“It gives us a snapshot of the bird populations in the area,” said Amanda Vaughan, who was involved with the Campbell River count.
On Cortes Island, 34 participants took part in the count, which is sponsored by the Cortes Island Museum, on Dec. 28. They reported 65 different species with the mew gull, surf scoter and pine siskin seen in the largest numbers. One species counters saw that isn’t normally common was greater yellowlegs. They were seen by groups in two different locations.
The number of species counted this year was up from 57 in 2018 and 60 in 2016, but down from the mid-to-low 70s counts between 2008 and 2016.
The Broughton Strait count, based out of Port McNeill is the most northerly count on Vancouver Island and its surrounding islands. It had 15 participants for its Dec. 28 count and saw 63 different species.
In Campbell River and on Quadra Island, 47 participants were led by veteran birders in the count on Dec. 29, 2019. They spotted 90 species, down from 92 in 2018.
But veteran birder Doug Phyall said a downward trend in the number of individual birds sighted over the last 50 years was confirmed by this year’s count.
Teams didn’t spot any rare species this year, but Phyall said a few of the more uncommon birds seen were an American goldfinch, a barred owl and a few trumpeter swans, which are normally seen in the Courtenay area. Teams didn’t see many immature eagles and the number of woodpeckers seen was lower than in recent years, Phyall said, while no grouse were spotted.
If you’re within the count area and have a bird feeder, you’re encouraged to report the species and numbers sighted to Phyall.
If you’re interested in participating next year, shoot him an email at email@example.com.
Greenways Land Trust will be hosting a winter waterfowl and shorebird interpretive walk this weekend. Greenways President Sandra Milligan and bird expert Ray Allan will be on-hand for the Jan. 26 afternoon walk between 1 and 2:30 p.m. The meeting place is at the end of Adams Road in Willow Point.
Admission is free for Greenways members and $10 for everyone else. Proceeds will be going to support wildlife rescue operations in Australia. Donations will also be accepted.
If you can’t make the event, don’t fret. There will be an “Introduction to Birding” workshop with Ray Allan and Greenways Land Trust in May. More information on that event will be posted to Greenways’ Facebook page closer to the date.