Okanagan birders are feeling quite puffed up this year, with both south and central Okanagan regions topping the magic 100 species mark during their Christmas Bird Counts in the last couple of weeks.
That included a number of rare or unusual birds spotted and a particularly large number of different owls, despite a snowstorm on count day in the Central Okanagan.
Local count coordinator Chris Charlesworth counted his first owls in the dark hours of the morning on count day along Mission Creek where he spotted a great horned owl and a pair of western screech owls.
That evening, he and Ryan Tomlinson counted 12 more, 10 of them great horned owls, but also a barred owl. Five northern pygmy owls were also spotted on count day.
Volunteers also counted the double-crested cormorant that’s been perching on the bridge the past few weeks and a couple of peregrine falcons, two yellow-rumped warblers, a vesper, swamp and white-throated sparrow and three yellow-headed blackbirds at the landfill—all unusual here for December.
As well, there’s an Anna’s hummingbird who stayed behind in Rutland this winter instead of migrating south. I hope she survives the winter, but I’m not sure how likely that is.
The count also included 168 common redpolls.
In all about 50 birders braved the snowstorm to take part in this year’s count in the field, while a further 13 participated in this year’s feeder watch, calling in or e-mailing their results to Denise Brownlie who reported that one watcher counted 120 goldfinches in her yard in Rutland. That’s annoying when I can’t get any to come and eat my niger seed, even though they’re supposed to love the stuff. I guess we’re too deep in the forest for them.
Denise says in all, 27 species and 1,181 individual birds were reported by her feeder watch participants, including 18 Eurasian collared doves, a species that used to be quite unusual, but she says are spreading. Three of her callers reported them.
There were also lots of house finches, with 167 reported, along with 66 dark-eyed juncos and 62 house sparrows.
The feeder watch also included a whopping 399 California quail, so it’s no wonder there were lots of hawks and owls counted this year.
It’s just like wildlife: when the deer numbers are high you can be sure cougar numbers will be too.
The annual Christmas Bird Count is more than just a fun outing for birders. The results are tallied throughout North America and used to determine trends, some of which are negative, and which can indicate where changes need to be made in our habits to avoid extirpation of particular species.
Many of the local birders are members of the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club, which always welcomes new members or visitors to its regular monthly meetings.
The January meeting is Tues., Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at Evangel Church, 3261 Gordon Rd. with a presentation by Brian Ohsowski, a PhD candidate at UBCO who will talk about the challenges of growing native plants in severely-disturbed habitats.
The Friends of the South Slopes Society is holding its annual general meeting Thurs., Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at the EECO in Mission Creek Regional Park with guest speaker Rene Unger. She’ll talk about the Gore-Tex Transalpine Race, an eight-day trail running race through the mountains of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.
She will share her journey and stunning photos of the scenery. Her run was a fundraiser for the B.C. Cancer Society.
FOSS secretary Penny Gubbels notes there are two board positions open, and she says if you enjoy cycling, snow shoeing, riding, hiking or running on the trails in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, you should support improvements to the trails and park facilities by joining FOSS.
Download a membership form at: www.foss-kelowna.org or e-mail: info@foss-kelowna
Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.