Naturespeak 

Christmas Bird Counts (2004) in the Sea to Sky Corridor

It took a while, but finally nearly all data for the Christmas Bird Counts of 2004 are now tabulated in the computer files of Bird Studies Canada (www.bsc-eoc.org). The long delay was generated by an ornery input program which frustrated some of the local compilers and it proved to be downright incompatible to those who had firewalls in their personal computers. After the frustrations were vented, the data for the six Christmas Bird Counts in the Sea to Sky Corridor is online. The local slow-down is the complexity of the Lower Howe Sound count; each island therein (Bowen, Keats, Gambier, etc.) as well as Horseshoe and Lions Bay carries out their own local count, providing a logistical data retrieval challenge to the overall computer. Islanders can’t be hurried!

Overall, the cumulative result for the six counts in the corridor was poor to fair, logging a total of 122 species with ups and downs for numbers of each. Lower Howe Sound and its outer coastal marine climate was again the leader with 86 species, followed by: Squamish (72), Pemberton (48), Lillooet (47), D’arcy (45) and Whistler at the rear with 43! All counts were below their usual species totals by 5 to 10 per cent. In numbers of birds counted, however, Squamish (11,276) easily out-distanced the others, thanks to a high Glaucous-winged gull count (4,869) and local record counts of Canada geese (344), Mallards (956), Ring-necked duck (72), Bufflehead (267) and an unusual seven Western Meadowlarks. Whistler’s 2,201 gulls were only a local record, and without them (next year?) only 1,285 other birds were seen. However, the narrow valleys about D’arcy coughed up only 599 birds but the few yielded biodiversity. All field parties throughout the corridor found the woods and backyards to be very quiet; song birds were darn few, and the autumn migrants for all but a few tardy waterfowl had departed. It was ducks and offshore marine birds that provided most of the easy counts, other than gulls, crows and ravens at the landfills!

Nonetheless, there were some notable local highlight records: 5 Brown creepers at Whistler; 80 Brandt’s cormorants, 11 Red-breasted mergansers and an outstanding 35 Anna’s hummingbirds in the Lower Sound; 10 Ruffed grouse at Lillooet; 65 Pine grosbeaks at Pemberton edged out Lillooet’s 60; and 8 Band-tailed pigeons at D’arcy. Unusual finds (in low numbers) were at the following areas; Squamish (their first and B.C.’s third ever Western scrub jay, Canvasback duck, out of range American crow); Pemberton (Lapland longspur and Black-headed grosbeak); and Lillooet (Barred owl, "eastern" Bluejay, Blue grouse, and Mountain bluebird). Four owl species were sighted or heard; the tiny Northern pygmy owl was spotted at all six count areas.

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