By Dennis “Hoo Ping Crane” Leonard
“Where are all the birds?” was a frequent question this winter.
Perhaps that question still applies to the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Though the number of participants (57) increased by 21 this year, the number of checklists submitted (117) dropped lower than in 2007 with an even lower number of individual birds (2170) and species (39) counted.
Yet, the average number of birds per checklist was in the mid-range (18.7). “Hoo Ping Crane’s” vehicle died causing the loss of several checklists and quite a few other participants did not submit as many lists as usual, while others did not see any birds when they observed.
With several tied at four lists, 12 local participants and Raft River Elementary School were in the top 10 for checklists entered in the Thompson-Nicola area.
Which species were participants most likely to see? The Black-capped Chickadee followed by Common Raven, Northern Flicker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, or Dark-eyed Junco in that order as they were reported on the most checklists.
The top five for the most individual birds were Pine Siskin (490), Black-capped Chickadee (483), Common Raven (210), Dark-eyed Junco (176) and Red-breasted Nuthatch (89).
A few local highlights: Great Blue Heron appearance after a six year absence; Red-tailed Hawk after a four yearr absence; a few Varied Thrush after a two year absence; White-winged Crossbills reported for only the fourth time since the local GBBC started.
Evening Grosbeaks seem to be very slowly recovering after their disappearance in 2015.
The Clearwater area submitted more checklists than 134 countries. The top five countries in order were United States, India, Canada, Australia and Spain. India passed Canada this year.
The top five for species were Colombia (1101), Ecuador (963), India (855), Brazil (845), and Peru (767). Though it had the most checklists, the United States slipped to 7th place for species. Canada was 33rd.
Kudos to the Raft River Grade 3 class and their teacher, Elizabeth Shook, for joining the count. A few of them even reported from other locations on their travels during the long weekend. Those lists would not be included in our local count, but would be welcome for the overall GBBC.
Also, kudos to a locum at the medical centre who submitted 11 checklists, the second most for the area this year.
So, “Where are all the birds?” Hopefully the earlier mild weather, less snow, and, perhaps, more food in their territory enticed them to stay home and not choose a winter vacation.
Many thanks to the Clearwater Library for heavily promoting the event, mentioning it to almost every visitor, and providing blank local checklists. Thanks also to the Clearwater Times.
Of course thanks go to all participants especially those who tried but were unable to find any birds.