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Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Bird Count: Gabriola Results

Approximately twenty-five islanders participated in the 2011 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Dec 28. The day started out cloudy (but not freezing cold, and not wet!) and the sun even peeked out for a while, but rain arrived in early afternoon. Nonetheless, participants counted 3398 individual birds; that’s over one thousand MORE than last year! (That doesn’t necessarily mean there are a thousand more birds on the island, of course, just that we managed to count that many more this year.)

The CBC was started in 1900 by American ornithologist Frank Chapman. That means this year’s count is #111! Today, winter birds in over 2000 locations across North and Central America are counted between December 14 and January 5. This year, in Nanaimo and on Gabriola, count day was December 28. Information gleaned from over a hundred years of Christmas Bird Counts gives scientists invaluable information about how early winter bird populations constantly change in the face of changing climates and for many other reasons. 

On Gabriola, only the north end of the island (up to an imaginary line that runs approximately between Degnen Bay Road on the north side to Garland on the south side) is included in the count. This area is divided into 12 sections, and each section has a Team Leader that reports the findings for their section to the coordinator of the count for Gabriola Island

DRUM ROLL PLEASE! THE TOP TEN GABRIOLA SPECIES FOR 2011 (Number of individuals counted in brackets)

1. Chestnut-backed Chickadee: (292)
2. Dark-eyed Junco: (276) 
3. Barrow’s Goldeneye: (266)
4. Golden-crowned Kinglet: (256) The highest numbers were seen in Area “I” which includes the 707 and Area “G” which includes the Island Trust Fund Nature Reserve.
5. Pine Siskin: (244)
6. Bufflehead: (191)
7. Mallard: (182) Mallards were seen in most areas, even in Area “I”, where we found a pair happily swimming on a very small pond off Barrett Road. That was a nice surprise!
8. Surf Scoters: (111) The majority were seen near Orlebar Point.
9. Dunlin: (110)
10. Spotted Towhee: (106) Towhees were spotted in every area except “A” (Descanso Bay Park southeast to the Village)

AND NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN ... Although not in such large numbers, the following birds common to the island were also counted:
73 House Finch
65 Ravens
61 American Robins
34 Northern Flickers
25 Varied Thrush
22 Red-breasted Nuthatch
18 Steller’s Jays
14 Northwestern Crows
10 Anna’s hummingbirds
9 Purple Finch 
9 Pileated Woodpeckers
5 Downy and 5 Hairy Woodpeckers
2 Trumpeter Swans!

Sometimes what you don’t see is almost as interesting as what you do. This year CBCers saw no Barred Owls - nor any other kind of owl, including the Snowy that has been seen on the island recently. It's quite possible that the lack of sightings (or "hearings"?) was that no one counted at night. And no Band-tailed Pigeons. On the day of the CBC Band-tailed Pigeons were not seen in Nanaimo either.  

ONE OF A KIND, that’s me!  ONE of each of the following birds was counted:
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Merlin (seen on the grounds of The Commons)
Eurasian Wigeon
Pacific Loon
Rock Sandpiper

A big thanks to everyone who participated in this year's Christmas Bird Count and especially to Phyllis for coordinating the count on Gabriola. Happy New Year everyone!  

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