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NatureSpeak Articles

Christmas bird count trends in the Sea to Sky corridor 2003

(Continued from last week)

Which birds demonstrated the influence of maritime over continental trends in terms of reducing numbers to the east? The following 15 more or less provided such trends but the decline was far from evenly consistent. (High SW to low NE counts in brackets): Common goldeneye (326 to 7), Sharp-shinned and Red-tailed hawks (each 3 to 1), Kingfisher (15 to 1), Flicker (32 to 7), Pileated woodpecker (9 to 1), Black-capped (220 to 25) and Chestnut-backed (219 to 0) chickadees, Brown creeper (16 to 0) Winter wren (319 to 1), Golden (562 to 1) and Ruby-crowned (35 to 4) kinglets, Brewer blackbird (14 at Squamish to 0), Varied thrush (118 to 0) and Song sparrow (167 to 22).

Obversely, which species were highest in number at Lillooet and decreased to the southwest? Roughly eight show their trend as follows: American crow (211 to 0), Mountain chickadee (50 to 0), Bohemian waxwing (69 to 0), Northern shrike (3 to 0), Clark’s nutcracker (8 to 0), Townsend’s solitaire (18 to 1) and without significance (just luck), Great Horned owl (2 to 0) and Northern Pygmy owl (7 to 0).

Birds found throughout the Howe Sound area were the following: Common loon, Red-necked and Western grebes, Double-crested and Pelagic commorants, Northern pintail (duck), Coot, Killdeer, Mew and Herring gulls and Red-breasted sapsucker. With the exception of the commorants all will migrate north through the corridor in spring.

Sighted at two locales on the east side of the corridor was the Golden eagle, but it can be found sparingly any time of the year on the coast, and the one roosting at Whistler Cay Heights chose to lay low throughout our bird count week before Christmas.

Were there any birds that had their highest count, other than the noted exclusive species reports, in the middle of the Sea to Sky corridor? Whistler had the highest counts on Trumpeter swans (very unusual), Thayer’s gulls (unusual, but at the dump), Gray jay (subalpine/alpine influences), Northwest crows (the dump!), Purple fincher (alpine) and Pine siskins (everywhere). Pemberton and Whistler together were the apex of the Steller’s jay counts.

By bird groups the following highs shake out: Waterford (Outer Sound — 26spp), marine and shore (reef) birds (Outer Sound — 18spp), raptors including owls and shrike (Lillooet — 9spp), woodpeckers (Outer Sound and Squamish — 5spp), humming birds (Outer Sound — 2spp exclusive), Song birds excluding sparrows and finches (Outer Sound — 18spp), Jays and Crows (Whistler — 6spp), Sparrows (Pemberton — 7spp), finches/grosbeaks (Lillooet — 8spp), and D’Arcy-Devine was left out but did have a record 84 Evening grosbeaks.

Other not worthy oddities are as follows. The Rufour hummingbird at Bowen Island should have been at the Gulf Coast for winter! A Little gull (a species that is the smallest in North America) off Gambier Island normally resides on the Atlantic seaboard as well as Eurasia (and Alaska in summer), but it can pop up anywhere on the continent alone or mixed with Bonaparte gulls.

Ice cover reduced Whistler to a lowest 5 species of waterfowl; but the Outer Sound failed to find any blackbirds or larks. Perhaps the 319 Winter wrens chased them away. A Rough-legged hawk on a highway lamp near Caulfield interchange should have been on farm and ranch land habitats of Ladner or Lillooet.

The latest and most aggressive species battle in North America is in our corridor. Last year (2002) Lillooet set a new continental record with 149 dippers gobbling salmon eggs in Seton River spawning channels. This year they counted 113 on the same channels while Squamish tallied an even 100 snipping at salmon eggs in the Cheakamus River. Pemberton vows to upstage both next year by wading the Birkenhead for an ultimate count. That’s a tough roe to hoe, or hike!

Upcoming Events:

Whistler Naturalists Speaker Series – Sea-to-Sky Country–living with mountains, earthquakes, landslides, and floods with Bob Turner. Dr. Bob Turner is a scientist with the Natural Resources Canada (Geological Survey of Canada) in Vancouver. His recently released book, co-authored with John Clague, "Vancouver, City on the Edge - Living with a dynamic geological landscape" presents the science behind important geoscience issues in southwestern British Columbia such as earthquakes, landslides, floods and volcanoes, as well as groundwater and surface water resources, energy and mineral resources, and the impacts of climate change. Event will take place on Wednesday, March 17 that 7:30 p.m. at MY Place (doors open at 7 p.m.). Admission by donation, children free.

Monthly Bird Walk The next bird walk will take place Saturday, March 6 th . Join Whistler experts in the monthly update of our feathered locals and migrants.

Written by: Karl Ricker


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