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Feather friends a plenty

2007 Christmas Counts tally 40,502 Birds in the Sea to Sky Corridor

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For 2007, the eight Christmas Bird Counts in the corridor netted an overall satisfactory result despite Whistler’s downturn in numbers of species seen. In fact, that was the story almost everywhere except Lillooet, which had less birds but more species in their count. And that was the usual picture elsewhere throughout B.C. except Nanaimo, Duncan and Osoyoos, which enjoyed near record counts for numbers and species seen.

The villain was probably the stormy weather of early December which drove many species south of the border.

The following stats were registered in the Sea to Sky corridor: Lower Howe Sound – 15,934 birds, a low 76 species; Squamish – 11,902 birds and 72 sp; Whistler – 2,659 birds and 42 sp; Pemberton/Mt. Currie – 2,883 birds and 59 sp; D’Arcy/Birken – 964 birds and 44 sp; Lillooet – 2,066 birds and 65 sp; Hat Creek Valley (Upper) – 581 birds and 37 sp; and Ashcroft/Cache Creek – 3,537 birds and 41 sp. Species counts include those seen on three days either side of count day, which for Whistler was nine, and in the case of Lower Howe Sound, nil. That is, Whistler and Hat Creek fared the worst on count day!

In comparison, the number of species seen throughout the corridor was 132, one more than last year, and 40,502 counted birds which was almost a whopping 8,000 more than year ago!

Over the transect, from tidewater to interior sage brush country, there were nine species common to all counts, one more than last year: Great blue heron (a high of 35 at Squamish), Downy woodpecker (10 at Squamish), Hairy woodpecker (11 at Lillooet), Northern flicker (64 at Lower Howe Sound), Common raven (348 at Cache Creek’s landfill!), Black capped chickadee (413 at Lower Howe Sound), American dipper (45 at Lillooet), Spotted towhee (244 at Lower Howe Sound), and Song sparrow (166 at Lower Howe Sound). Surprisingly, of the eight in common last year, four were not repeats this year! Bald eagle, Steller jay, Red-breasted nuthatch and starlings were absent at one or more counts. On the opposite end of the distribution scene, every count had at least one species not seen elsewhere. Again, Lower Howe Sound led the parade with 22 – marine ducks, grebes, cormorants, shorebirds, alcids, Hermit thrush, Anna’s hummingbird, Townsend’s warbler and a way-out-of-place Great gray owl which inhabits the interior of the province, easily their bird of the day. For Squamish it was four species of gulls (Ring-billed being the highlight) out of the thousands counted at the dump, a Lesser scaup duck, and a small race of Canada goose, or Cackling goose. Whistler chipped in with the usual White-tailed ptarmigan and a rarely seen Northern goshawk, while Pemberton served up their first record of a wintering Long-eared owl. D’Arcy had the only Pied-billed grebe, and a much rarer Eared grebe – about the only one in the southwestern corner of the province. Lillooet, in dry belt country, had eight uniques: Golden eagle, Wilson’s snipe, Northern saw-whet owl, a first Black-backed woodpecker, Pygmy nuthatch, Mountain bluebird, White-throated sparrow and Mourning doves. Hat Creek had four good ones, and the best was a Northern hawk owl as well as Blue (sooty) grouse, White-breasted nuthatch and Snow bunting. Finally, Ashcroft had the only Kestrel and a very surprising flock of Chipping sparrows which was their bird of the day (not seen in many counts elsewhere in B.C.).

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