Weather forces organizers to wing it

Stormy, snowy, icy conditions on Dec. 27 resulted in the postponement of the outdoor portion of 2015 Campbell River Christmas Bird Count.

The new date, Jan. 3, dawned frigid but clear, much to the relief of the 11 teams of 34 birders that headed out from sunrise to sunset to participate in the 116th global Christmas Bird Count.

Their task was to find and record as many species and total number of individuals within each species in various habitats in and around Campbell River.

Birders used both eyes (aided by scopes and binoculars) and sound to locate the birds at the shoreline, open ocean, scrub patches, urban neighbourhoods, stream edges and forests.

Curious onlookers expressed doubt that there’d be enough birds in the city to make the count worthwhile.

“Are you finding any birds?” they’d ask. The answer: Absolutely!

At the post-count get together, teams reported from 45 to nearly 70 species and from 600 to nearly 2,000 individual birds, depending on their count area.

The high visibility and unusually calm ocean made it easy to spot and identify water birds. Other birds were seen feeding in scrubby areas, forest edges and of course, at hummingbird and seed feeders.

Sightings included a variety of water birds, hawks, shorebirds, gulls, seabirds, pigeons, woodpeckers, corvids and songbirds.

Each year brings highs and lows in the bird populations, based on weather and food availability.

Varied thrushes come down to sea level in search of food when snow blankets higher altitudes. Participants were delighted to observe flocks of these strikingly beautiful birds.

Other unusual flocks included red crossbills and pine siskins.

These birds are considered “irruptive species”, occurring in high numbers only in years that have a plentiful crop of seed cones on conifers.

To learn more about birding events throughout the year, visit the Bird Studies Canada website, under Citizen Science.

Weekly trips are sponsored by the Comox Valley Naturalists. Local trips may be organized and will be announced in the papers and social media.

Contact Luisa, 250-923-9918, Lu.rich52@gmail.com, or Colin, 250-850-0884, busster@telus.net if you’d like to join an email list for future bird outings.