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Bird count tallies record number of species

Whistler naturalists spotted 28 different species, tying a record for the first week of march



The warmer than usual winter weather may not be welcomed by Whistler's skiers and snowboarders, but it spells good news for local bird watchers, who spotted a record number of species this weekend.

Volunteers observed 28 different bird species on the monthly walk, led by the Whistler Naturalists from the foot of Lorimer Road to Rainbow, tying the previous record for the first week of March.

"The number of species (sighted) was mind-blowing because we've been as low as six species in the first week of March before, and normally it's around 15 or 16," said the Whistler Naturalists' Karl Ricker.

Several species were seen much earlier in the season that in previous years, which Ricker attributed to the above-average temperatures Whistler has experienced this winter. He expects the early arrivals to continue.

The most notable sighting was that of a great blue heron, a wading bird that is the largest North American heron, which is not commonly seen in the Whistler area until mid-May, Ricker said.

Other recorded species included the stocky shorebird Wilson's snipe, which arrived about a month earlier than usual, said Ricker, as well as several trumpeter swans observed on both Alta Lake and Green Lake.

Ricker said he is waiting to see if the rufous hummingbird will be observed in the valley earlier than its typical April arrival. The rufous hummingbird has historically signalled the unofficial end of winter in Whistler and Pemberton.

Volunteers have now recorded over 260 bird species in all on the Whistler checklist, and Ricker has wondered if the ongoing impacts of climate change will keep that number rising.

The Squamish Estuary also played host to a monthly bird count on Saturday, March 7. Volunteers eyed 58 different species, which is also above average for this time of year. Notable sightings included the tree swallow and violet-green swallow, which arrived about a month ahead of schedule, Ricker noted.

The monthly bird walk takes place on the first Saturday of every month.

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