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And of the lingering migrants, who dithered on their departure? Our Christmas bird count of 61 species, compared to 35 (+ 7) listed as regulars, showed that the following were notable laggards: Pied-billed Grebe, American Wigeon, Mallards, Lesser Scaup, American Coot, Belted Kingfisher, and Robins. Others seen on the Christmas bird count are accidental strays from elsewhere, for example, the White-breasted Nuthatch and Redhead Duck, or opportunistic irregular visitors which live nearby. In the latter category there are various hawk and falcon species, as well as the Golden Eagle, the American Crows in Pemberton, and certainly the rarer Herring, Thayers and Western Gulls, the Common Merganser and the Bufflehead Ducks. The lattermost were seen irregularly at the outlet of Green Lake.
Which migrants jumped the gun on their return northward? This year it was the Canadian Geese, a flock of 25, which showed up in early March, followed by a few robins that appeared a week before the official end of winter, during our cold snap! As we write, spring migration is now in full force and the bird walks with Mike Thompson will blossom with returnees.
Not mentioned above is the impact of urbanization on our winter bird lists. Without Whistler there would not likely be any starlings, gulls, House Sparrows and perhaps Brewers Blackbirds. The latter two are seen exclusively in the town centre, whereas the others are most frequent at the dump. The presence of Bald Eagles would certainly also be curtailed because gulls are their prime dinner fare in Whistler Valley. Bobcats also prey on the gulls, although one snatched a Mallard in the River of the Golden Dreams in early January. Has mankind driven any winter species out of the valley? I dont know, but Blue and Ruffed Grouse have been in very low numbers over the last few years.
Saturday, April 20th Pitch-In Day . Join the Whistler Naturalists in Alta Vista to help with roadside litter pick-up. There will also be a post-event BBQ at the fire hall and a Whistler Naturalists display at the Earth Day fair in Town Plaza that afternoon. For details, please contact Irene Stupka (604-698-5254 or email@example.com).