Cold weather didn’t hinder the 100 Mile Christmas Bird Count.
Some 1,713 birds from 32 different species were spotted by volunteers on Saturday, Dec. 17. Bird Count coordinator Paul Foth said the numbers of birds and volunteers in the field were up from last year’s count.
He was joined this year by 15 counters, split across seven teams, and nine bird feeder watchers. Both the birds and the counters experienced extreme temperatures that day.
“Some birds would have been huddling for cover a bit but the weather affected the counters more. It’s hard to be out for an extended period of time so we spent more time back in the car warming up,” Foth said. “The birds around in this weather can survive, they’ve got feathers and we don’t.”
The most common bird seen this year was the raven, with 525 spotted across the area. A large number of ravens – called “an unkindness” – were found around the South Cariboo Landfill. Spotters also recorded 344 American Crows. The two species accounted for more than half the number of birds recorded.
“There are a lot of ravens here all year round,” Foth said. “I would say they’re our most common winter bird, really, or at least the most widespread.”
Winter songbirds and finches were hit-and-miss this year. Foth said they found 177 Dark-eyed Juncos compared with none last year, 165 Bohemian waxwings, 124 black-capped chickadees, 74 Red Crossbills. Only one Pine Grosbeak was spotted, down from 143 last year.
Foth said two of his teams encountered sharp-tailed grouse, which have never been counted during the Christmas Bird Count. Sharp-tailed grouse prefer open areas and grasslands. Foth said the grouse have likely migrated to the South Cariboo because the recent wildfires and logging have created a habitat suitable for them west of 100 Mile House.
“In summer, especially for breeding, they like grassy prairies and the afterburn scrubby open areas seem to do well for them,” Foth said. “They’ve been sighted for the past few years quite a few times in the area. They love stands of Aspen and in the winter you can sometimes see them in trees.”
Foth said a single female black-backed woodpecker has been found at fire sites. Foth said they like the burned trees and logs, peeling the bark to get to bugs rather than drilling holes.
A surprise this year was a find of four ducks, one Mallard and three Goldeneyes, in 100 Mile House’s sewage ponds. Foth said there is still some standing water left from the sewage disposal process and while it’s “gross water” the ducks don’t mind.
“I was very happy and I was very thankful for all the volunteers who went out in the very cold weather or who counted birds at their own feeders,” Foth said. “In fact, the feeder counters gave us a few species we would not have otherwise found.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story suggested the bird count found endangered birds. The headline has been changed to reflect that most birds counted were of the common variety.