John Kelson

Smithers birders tally more than 4,000

Birds of a feather flocked together to take stock of local bird populations around Smithers for the Annual Christmas Bird Count.

December 27, birds of a feather flocked together to take stock of local bird populations for the 112th Annual Christmas Bird Count.

This year’s tally of 4,439 individual birds representing 48 different species falls within long-term averages for the Smithers bird count, but there were a few notable species such as Townsend’s solitaire, snowy owls, a sharp-shinned hawk and a couple of white-tailed ptarmigan.

“The snowy owls were one of the big excitements of the day,” Christmas Bird Count organizer Rosamund Pojar said.

Other owl species, such as hawk, barred and boreal owl also put smiles on the faces of participants who braved the somewhat chilly weather.

The sharp-shinned hawk and ptarmigan sightings came thanks to the eagle eye of John Kelson, a conservation biologist who refers to himself as a covert birder, even though he’s dragged binoculars around for more than 30 years.

Covert or not, Kelson has an impressive birding resumé, having worked in forests around the world, including Africa.

In fact Kelson, whose interest in birds began when he took courses in outdoor recreation and natural sciences at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., is often credited with finding the first verified marbled murrelet nest in British Columbia.

Participating in the bird count was a matter of seeing the big picture, Kelson said.

“The Christmas Bird Count is a big snapshot of bird abundance that gives biologists a  glimpse of the health of bird populations,” he said.

“It’s a great example of citizen science providing valuable information on trends and distributions of bird species.”

The most numerous species in this year’s count was the black-capped chickadee at 997 individuals counted, followed closely by the pine grosbeaks at 881 individuals, the latter count being the surprise of the day.

“The day turned out to be one for the pine grosbeaks, they were everywhere,” Pojar said.

Many of the grosbeaks were spotted at feeders, which had many of the local naturalists thinking there is very little natural food for them out in the bush perhaps due to a poor cone crop and very few wild fruits.

“So they are stocking up on sunflower seeds at local feeders,” Pojar explained.

Other notables on the day included a record-breaking number of golden-crowned kinglets, 61, and at least one individual from each of the four species of chickadee, black-capped, mountain, boreal and chestnut-sided.

Conversely, Pojar noted the numbers of ruffed grouse and crossbills were lower than usual this year, at two and five, respectively.

Smithers Christmas Bird Count December 27, 2012

Species Number

Mallard 52

Common Merganser 1

Bald Eagle 15

Northern Goshawk 3

Rough-legged Hawk 1

Sharp-shinned Hawk 1

Ruffed Grouse 2

Spruce Grouse 2

Ring-necked Pheasant 4

White-tailed Ptarmigan 2

Eurasian Collared Dove 42

Snowy Owl 3

Barred Owl 1

Boreal Owl 1

Northern Hawk Owl 8

Pileated Woodpecker 3

Northern Flicker 13

Hairy Woodpecker 32

Downy Woodpecker 37

Three-toed Woodpecker 7

Black-backed Woodpecker 1

Woodpecker sp. 2

Northern Shrike 5

Steller’s Jay 10

Gray Jay 31

Black-billed Magpie 16

Common Raven 320

American Crow 253

Black-capped Chickadee 997

Mountain Chickadee 21

Boreal Chickadee 5

Chestnut-backed Chickadee 8

Red-breasted Nuthatch 9

Brown Creeper 1

Golden-crowned Kinglet 61

Townsend’s Solitaire 1

American Robin 10

Bohemian Waxwing 412

Song Sparrow 4

Sparrow sp. 1

Dark-eyed Junco 68

Steller’s Jay

Red-winged Blackbird 6

Brewer’s Blackbird 156

Evening Grosbeak 27

Pine Grosbeak 811

Red Crossbill 5

Common Redpoll 653

Pine Siskin 51

House Sparrow 214

European Starling 50

Total Number of Birds 4439

Total Number of species 48

Total Number of Bird Counters 45 field counters + 5 additional feeder watchers

 

 

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