With my binoculars slung and at the ready I step into the quiet forest in my backyard. My backpack is equipped with guides, paper, pencil, water, and a piece of camp foamy to make sitting tolerable. My task is simple; walk, listen, look. Usually a walk for me means something very purposeful. Get going, accelerate the heart rate, and test the will of legs and lungs. This feels so different. It’s almost freeing to be just walking; slowly, quietly, pausing often, all with keen attention.
The temperature is unseasonably warm about three degrees Celsius, the wind, just a breath, coming from the northwest. The sky overcast, a cloud cocoon. Not what one would expect a few days post Christmas and yet maybe it is the usual west coast thaw.
There were 23 of us willing to leave our Saturday chores aside and choose instead to soak in our beautiful valley. What a rich place we live in. You can you explore old growth woodlands, glacial rivers, an ocean estuary, mountain valleys and creeks and yes, the dump. Walking was the preferred means of travel but some of us drove our cars or bicycled to favourable sites. Some of us sat at windows and comfortably notated the guests at our backyard feeders.
Eva Mack’s Common Grackle received a ‘wow” factor response from Dick Cannings the provincial organizer for the Christmas bird count. It is a rare bird that he has never seen west of the Rockies. Three lucky ones drifted the winding Bella Coola River stopping on banks and gravel bars to sight birds, beavers and deer. Michael Wigle, local photographer extraordinaire, took some great shots that will be included in the report. All in all it was an excellent way to spend a wintry day.
The feedback over tea and goodies was that is was pretty quiet. Some lists had as few as four species and some included as many as 16. It didn’t really matter. Mostly it was pretty cool to share stories about sightings, debate over particular specie, and discuss the birds and their unique and sometimes quirky behaviour. There seemed to be a shared gratefulness to have this interest re-kindled.
So thank you very much to all who volunteered to bring back the Christmas Bird Count to Bella Coola. There is room for expansion next year as each count takes in a circle with a 24 km diameter. We could have at least 2 more circles in the valley. This count included the area from approximately Jourdenais Road to Clayton Creek. I will tally and wrestle with the computer and compilers program and record for the Audubon Society.
Thanks also to Active Communities for their support and assistance in making this project successful and to Monica for contributing tasty snacks.
For now I’ll leave you with our own specie list for the Bella Coola Christmas Bird Count of 2013: Trumpeter Swan 26 (5 juv.), American Widgeon 85 (40 juv), Green-winged Teal 7, Lesser Scaup 4, Bufflehead 36, Common Merganser 30, Ruffed Grouse 3, Great Blue Heron 5, Bald Eagles adult 37 (17 juv.), American Kestrel 1, Gull sp 400+, Eurasian Collared Dove 25, Belted Kingfisher 9, Hairy Woodpecker 1, Northern Flicker 3, Pileated Woodpecker 1, Steller’s Jay 2, Northern Crow 350+, Common Raven 39, Chestnut Backed Chickadee 72, Pacific Wren 17, American Dipper 10, Golden –crowned Kinglet 1, American Robin 5, Cedar Waxwing (vocals), Spotted Towhee 2, Fox Sparrow 1, Song Sparrow 2, Oregon Junco 60+, Slate-coloured Junco 30+, Red-winged Blackbird 15, Brewer’s Blackbird 6, Pine Grosbeak 10, Purple Finch 3, Pine Siskin 400-500, Common Grackle 1.