Bird count numbers up

Good weather a boon for volunteers who spotted 130 species in White Rock and Surrey.

This barred owl

This barred owl

Bird enthusiasts from around the Semiahmoo Peninsula and beyond were treated to a few surprise appearances this week, during the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

More than 100 volunteers turned up to take part in the annual event Jan. 3, according to local co-ordinator Viveka Ohman, who said the count has been taking place across North America for more than 100 years.

This year’s local count saw a total of 130 species of birds and waterfowl accounted for, which Ohman described as “on the higher end of what we’d normally get,” an increase she attributed to the help the group received from Mother Nature.

“We had the weather in our favour to be able to spot all of them,” Ohman said. “It wasn’t pouring rain, it wasn’t snowing and there wasn’t any wind.”

Among the notable sightings were reports of a dipper, which Ohman said was spotted heading towards north Surrey; an orange crown warbler at a counter’s backyard feeder; and a least sandpiper and a rusty blackbird – the latter two, Ohman noted, were “both unusual at this time of year.”

In Campbell Valley Regional Park, four species of owls were spotted, Ohman said, including great horned, barred, barn and saw-whet owls.

When the fog cleared near the water, Ohman said a large number of ruddy ducks were also spotted in the bay.

Ohman said she was “so impressed” with the outcome of this year’s count, noting that the data collected by volunteers is forwarded to the Audubon Society, where it will be studied by experts in the field.

“Though it is citizen science, and it is an estimate only, it gives scientists an idea of population trends and migratory movements,” Ohman said. “It helps them with conservation plans and things like that.”

According to statistics online at www.audobon.org, last year’s bird count set a new record in Canada, with 460 counts taking place across the country – 22 more than the previous year – with a record 305 species accounted for.

For Ohman, the local count marked the end of an era for the longtime volunteer – she has co-ordinated the count every year since 1998 – who has decided this year would be her last in charge.

Anyone interested in filling her shoes can get in touch with her via email, vohman@shaw.ca, or by calling 604-531-3401.