The weather was great for walking but not so good for counting bills and beaks during this year’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC).
Numbers were down for the Dec. 5 annual survey, when volunteers from Rossland through to Genelle and south to Casino tallied birds at their feeders or strolled through “circles” to get an accurate count of particular species in each area.
Without much snow cover, birds like the starling-sized Bohemian waxwing could easily feed from the ground instead of having to search for seeds in a bird feeder, speculates CBC volunteer Arnold By.
“That’s just my personal opinion,” said By. “But I also think that cold spell we had in November and just before the count, chased the weaker birds away and pushed a lot of them south.”
While there were no unusual species spotted in By’s area around Warfield and Rivervale, he said that a flock of Pine grosbeaks were observed as were Red-tailed hawks and (not yet totalled) resident bald eagles.
Within the Trail circle that includes areas from Genelle south to the international border, CBC volunteer Shirley Coffin said American widgeons, also known as Dabbling ducks, were observed along the Columbia River – and that’s a first since the count began locally nearly a decade ago.
“That was unusual,” explained By, while working on the area’s final tabulation for the Audubon website. “I am not an expert on water birds but they are ducks that have orange on them especially around the breast area, and we’ve never seen them since the count started.”
Other than the widgeons, Coffin’s team of five, three observing feeders and two out walking, noted 33 species of birds in the Trail circle, totalling 739 birds.
The number is up slightly from last year, though Coffin, who went it alone last year, says that having a few more volunteers on board could have increased the final count.
There is one observation that troubled Coffin after eight years of counting, and that’s the decrease in water fowl she noted along the Columbia River near Jubilee Park.
“Usually I can count them all along the Esplanade,” she said. “But this year the Canada goose and mallards were down because there is no place for them to feed. The city has cleaned up all the trees and bushes and now it’s all rocks down there, so that made a big difference to my count.”
Other species sighted in the Trail area included juncos, sparrows and bald eagles.