The 40th Sunshine Coast Christmas Bird Count was held on Dec. 15. The count day was sandwiched between a series of Pacific storms that brought wind and heavy rain to coastal BC, so fortunately it was a decent day for the bird count. The weather was overcast but almost completely rain-free, the winds were light, and the temperature ranged from 3C to 8C. As usual, the count circle was covered by about eight separate parties (22 participants in total) with each led by an expert birder likely to know all the bird species encountered. Counting took place during all available daylight hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At the end of the day a total of 88 different species had been recorded, the same total as in three of the last five years. In the last seven years, the species total has varied between 88 and 93 species. Many of the counters felt that individual bird numbers were down from the average both for land and waterbirds, and so it proved. Seeking an explanation for this, I would suggest that with the winter being so mild this year, the birds have not been pushed down to sea-level or even to the Sunshine Coast in general to avoid the cold and snow and ice. When there is snow in our local mountains, varied thrushes are usually abundant at sea-level and this year they were largely absent, similarly with red-breasted sapsuckers. When the Arctic front descends on southern B.C. with sub-zero temperatures, there is a sudden influx of sapsuckers to our area. This year the sapsuckers are largely absent, as well.
Among the 88 species that were counted, the highlight was an anonymous sparrow, a swamp sparrow, which is rare on the West Coast. It was found in weedy wasteland below Chatelech Secondary School in Sechelt. Two yellow-rumped warblers were located (rare in winter) and many thanks to Sue Duxbury who spotted two Canada jays at Dakota Ridge
The 28th Pender Harbour Count was held on Dec. 19 in overcast weather with a temperature of 5C to 9C and choppy conditions out on the water, which is not ideal for bird counts. About 30 participants were split into eight parties, of which three were on boats. The same comments apply to the Pender Harbour count as for the Gibsons-Sechelt count above. This year 84 species were counted, again very consistent with past years, as 14 of the 28 counts to date have recorded between 80 and 84 species. Two black-capped chickadees were recorded at Ruby Lake Resort, indicating that this species is gradually colonizing the north end of the Sunshine Coast. To report your sightings or questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-885-5539.