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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Bewick's Wren comes to visit

The January Just for the Birds column is about a Bewick's Wren who visited our yard recently. I hope you enjoy it! 

Bewick's Wren photo by Dave Menke.
Photo courtesy USFWS.

Read the column here 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The CBC Numbers Are In!

On December 30, a cool dry day, 37 islanders walked, biked, and drove around the northern half of Gabriola counting birds during the 112th Audobon Christmas Bird Count. This year participants counted 4787 individual birds - that’s 1,369 more than last year! The increase was due largely to a massive number of Pine siskins, an irruptive species, whose count jumped to 1139 birds from 244 last year. Large flocks of Surf scoters and American wigeons also added to the count. Birds that travel in flocks can make a one-day count look quite different from year to year.

Flocks of geese (like these Snow geese in Steveston) can number in the hundreds

When looking at the final numbers (below), remember that they document how many birds participants saw; they do not necessarily reflect the actual number of birds on the island on December 30.  There are a few reasons for this:
  • The Christmas Bird Count region includes only the northern section of the island, and some rich bird habitats are on the south end
  • Participants count for a limited time in each area; the birds that get counted are those that happen to be in the area at the same time as the counters
  • Many birds are great at remaining invisible! Luckily, some birders can recognize specific species by song or call, but certainly not all. And even if you know you’re listening to a Song sparrow, for example, if you don’t actually see it, you might not know there are several in the vicinity.

1. Pine siskin (1139)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee: #4 this year
2. Surf scoter (466)
3. Dark-eyed junco (303)
4. Chestnut-backed chickadee (297)
5. Bufflehead (279)
6. Mallard (239)
7. Golden-crowned kinglet (206)
8. American wigeon (175)
9. Spotted towhee (116)
10. House finch (109)

Count numbers for (selected) other Gabriola birds:
  • 101 Common Ravens
  • 78 Song sparrows
  • 78 Red-breasted nuthatches
  • 43 Nothern flickers
  • 34 American robins
  • 32 Barrow’s golden eyes                                         
  • 26 Anna’s hummingbirds                                                             
  • 25 Red-winged blackbirds                                  
  • 23 Steller’s jays
  • 19 Northwestern crows
  • 16 Bewick’s wrens                                                  
  • 11 Downy woodpeckers

Comparisons with the 2011 Count

1.  Last year participants counted 244 Pine siskins. This year is an irruptive year for these small finches and huge flocks (total number: 1139) showed up on December 30. They’re on the move, following the food.  

2.  Anna’s hummingbird numbers almost tripled (26 this year, 10 last year)

3.  There’s a 4-fold increase in the number of Bewick’s wrens. (16 this year, 4 last year)

4.   Red-breasted nuthatch numbers are way up – from 22 last year to 78 this year. (I’m always amazed that such a loud honk comes from such a small bird.)

The red-breasted nuthatch, an irruptive species this year
5.  Robins are down – 61 last year, 34 this year

6.  Barrow’s golden-eyes dropped from 266 last year to 32 this year – but don’t worry, it’s that ‘flock’ business

7.  Hurray for an 8-fold increase in Red-winged blackbirds this year! (3 last year, 25 this year)
Gobble, gobble ... This year, just for fun, participants counted the feral turkeys!
(It was Christmas, after all!) The grand total counted was 46.
A  BIG GABRIOLA THANK YOU to Phyllis Fafard for coordinating the count – again!