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Good Birding: Coast Christmas Bird Count coming up this week

Gibsons-Sechelt count was 100 species last year
bird count chickadee
The Sunshine Coast Natural History Society is conducting its CBC Dec. 18 and the Pender Harbour Wildlife Society is conducting its count Dec. 22.

The Sunshine Coast Natural History Society will be conducting their 43rd annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Saturday, Dec. 18, and the 31st Pender Harbour count, organized by the Pender Harbour Wildlife Society, is on Wednesday, Dec. 22. I will report details from the two counts in my next column.

The first Christmas Bird Count was held in New England on Christmas Day 1900 when ornithologist Frank Chapman organized 25 of his friends to spend a day in the field censusing birds as an alternative to the prevailing “sidehunt,” where shooting parties went forth and shot any living thing, and the team with the most dead bodies at the end of the day was declared the winner. Fortunately, we have moved on from that disastrous ethic and in 2021 the Christmas Bird Count in the US is organized by the Audubon Society and in Canada by Bird Studies Canada. This year will be the 122nd CBC and it is often referred to as the world’s oldest citizen-science project. The long-term data base provides a trove of information concerning the populations of mid-winter birds in the Americas.

The 2020 CBC, in common with all human endeavor, was affected by COVID-19. Counts were undertaken using COVID guidelines, but participation was affected in many ways. Despite this, 2,451 counts were conducted and nearly 73,000 people participated, counting 45 million birds of 2,355 species. The highest count in North America was 224 species at Mad Island, Texas, and Mindo-Tandayapa, in Ecuador was the overall leader with 374 species. The count in Yanayacu, Ecuador, the perennial winner in finding the most species, was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Each count takes place on one day during a specified period around Christmas and all are conducted within a circle 15 miles or 24 kms in diameter. The Sunshine Coast circle is centred in Roberts Creek and covers the area from Port Mellon to West Sechelt. Most years the Sunshine Coast count records a species total in the 90s, with a highest ever total of 105 species in 2009. Pender Harbour generally reports 80 to 85 species, with a high of 87 in 1993. Last year the Gibsons-Sechelt count was 100 species (+ 6 count-week species) with the notable birds being a white-throated sparrow, western meadowlark, Bullock’s oriole and white-winged crossbill. The Pender Habour count was 82 species (+7 count-week) with notable birds being spotted sandpiper and Bewick’s wren.

In addition to the birds counted on “count-day,” we also tally those species recorded during “count-week,” which extends three days before and after the count-day. For the Sunshine Coast count this year, this period is Dec. 15 to 21, and for Pender Harbour from Dec. 19 to 25. If you see any unusual or unidentified birds at your feeder or elsewhere please contact me at tony@whiskeyjacknaturetours.com or 885-5539 so that they can potentially be included in the count. Photographs of any unusual species are especially welcome.

Good Birding.