Mild weather at the beginning of February likely had people expecting an earlier arrival of migrating birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).
Expectations changed when cold weather arrived Feb. 8, and stayed until halfway through the count. At the same time, an outbreak of salmonella hit pine siskin which resulted in many people removing their feeders prior to the count.
With those strikes against it, the local GBBC had a better result than the previous few years. Positive trends were: individual birds (2966) were the highest since 2016; checklists (115) increased by 32 over last year; the number of observers (40) increased by 18; species (40) were the most since 2013.
Comparing the average number of birds per checklist (25.8) showed this year ranked third behind 2016 (30.8) and 2010 (29.5) which were also years with a pine siskin irruption. Going back to 2007, the overall average is 21.6 birds/checklist.
Eleven local participants were in the top 15 for checklists submitted in the Thompson-Nicola area. Two were in the Top 100 for B.C., while one was 19th in Canada. Clearwater never gets on the Top 100 for species because there are so few species here during the count.
Which specie were participants most likely to see? The black-capped chickadee, pine siskin, common raven, red-breasted nuthatch and northern flicker, in that order, as they were reported on the most checklists.
The top five for the most individual birds were pine siskin (1165), black-capped chickadee (433), common raven (243), mallard (206) and dark-eyed junco (171). The mallard jump into the top 5 slot was the result of a flock of about 50 at the hatchery being reported on five lists.
Comments regarding some species:Mallard: the most sighted in all the GBBC years, with a flock of about 50 at the hatchery.
Green-winged teal: reported after an absence of five years.
Owls: this is the only year no owls had been reported.
Woodpeckers: the downy, hairy, pileated and northern flicker appear very stable over the years.
Canada jay: stable.
Steller’s jay: stable and about four times the number of the Canada jay each year.
Black-billed magpie: present the last five years, while earlier an odd one, or none, were reported.
Common raven: some people have expressed concern about a drop in raven numbers, which seems to be the case compared to last year, but their relative abundance per 100 checklists is close to average for all years.
Black-capped chickadee: stable.
Red-breasted nuthatch: stable.
Pygmy nuthatch: first sighting since 2009.
Brown creeper: stable.
Pacific wren: first sighting after a gap of six years.
Waxwings: fourth year in a row of none sighted
Song sparrow: only one, which is unusual, but likely due to the cold weather and people unsure of identification.
Dark-eyed junco: seems stable.
Common redpoll: no irruption this year.
Pine siskin: an irruption year.
Evening Grosbeak: though still low numbers, fairly stable the last five years after the sharp decline from 2014 to 2016.
Kudos to those participants who were the only one to spot the green-winged teal, bufflehead, great blue heron, sharp-shinned hawk, Eurasian collared dove, northern shrike, boreal chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, pygmy nuthatch, pacific wren, American dipper, and song sparrow.
No data is available yet regarding countries. Many thanks to the Clearwater Library for promoting the event and providing a local checklist to those wanting one. Thanks to The Times for publishing an article encouraging participation prior to the event. Appreciation to Forest House mentioning the event to people and adding it to Facebook. Thanks also to Home Hardware, Rona and DOC.
Of course, thanks go to every participant this year and hope you join in again in 2022.
Hoo Ping Crane