NatureSpeak: Kingfisher spotted on December bird walk 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID WHITE - HAIL TO THE KINGFISHER A healthy population of fishing kingfishers represents a healthy population of fish as well.
  • Photo by David White
  • HAIL TO THE KINGFISHER A healthy population of fishing kingfishers represents a healthy population of fish as well.

Saturday, Dec. 1 was a beautiful though cool morning for the Naturalist's monthly bird walk. We met at the bottom of Lorimer Road for the walk to Rainbow Park and back.

One of the highlights for me was when we got to the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment viewing platform at the mouth of the River of Golden Dreams. From there, the sun was rising behind the mountains and felt great on my face.

Then there was some action over by Rainbow Park and all binoculars turned that way. Through my binoculars all I could see was a bird hovering over the water, I couldn't see what colour it was or any details about its beak or wings.

"That's a kingfisher," said Victor Alfonso.

I'm amazed. I'm thinking, how could he possibly see from this far away to know that it's a kingfisher? So, I ask him. "I knew it was a kingfisher because of its call."

I try to pick up one or two new things each bird walk from this knowledgeable and friendly group. (I make a note to self to learn the call of the kingfisher.) And then as all eyes are on the kingfisher, it flies into direct view of the platform and hovers, at the same time being backlit by the sun. What a beautiful sight. It has made my day.

When a kingfisher is hovering, it's looking for fish. When it finds its prey, it will dive and grab it with its bill. Kingfishers are smaller than you might think, about the size of a robin. Females are blue-grey with a chestnut belly band and flanks. Males have a larger crest on their head and no chestnut colouring.

As long as we have open water in Whistler, keep your eye out for the kingfisher. Although fish are not the only thing it eats, when it's eating fish, it's eating sticklebacks and trout—so a healthy population of fishing kingfishers means a healthy population of fish.

As the day warmed up, we saw and heard more birds like hooded mergansers, a loon, heron, robin, siskins, chickadees, ravens and an American goldfinch. All in all, there were 17 species on our lovely morning walk.

The next birding event is the 29th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) coming up on Dec. 14. The CBC is generally accepted as the best, if not the only, tool available for assessing long-term trends in the early winter bird populations of North and Central America.

We need your help! On Dec. 14, please send us descriptions of the birds you see, how many, and where you see them to WhistlerNaturalists@gmail.com. More details at WhistlerNaturalists.ca including the Top 12 Whistler Christmas Birds (with photos) to get you started, and a Winter Christmas Bird List (i.e. only the birds that are here in winter).

The public is also welcome to join a number of CBC field trips going to different locations around Whistler starting at 8 a.m. on Dec. 14. See WhistlerNaturalists.ca for more information.

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