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Posted: January 10, 2022

Local Christmas Bird Count results

The first official Jaffray-Wardner Christmas Bird Count was held on December 15, 2021 and the 24th annual Christmas Bird Counts for Cranbrook and Kimberley were held on December 26, 2021 and January 2, 2022 respectively.

Brown Creeper by B Whetham

On count day, teams of counters cover as much of a specified 24-km wide circle as possible to tally all birds they see; feeder counters tally the highest number of a species seen at one time around their yard.

Nineteen people took part in the Cranbrook count and Kimberley had 21 people counting.  Portentously, all three Christmas Bird Counts recorded the same number of species: 43, but not all the same species, of course.

The first-ever Christmas Bird Count situated in the South Country of the East Kootenay surveys a unique and under-appreciated part of British Columbia. Within this lightly populated area, a broad, undulating, forested valley bottom is bordered by large mountains and a big lake and river.

Numerous small lakes, grasslands, agricultural lands, as well as transportation and utility corridors provide a mosaic of land uses and habitats which are attractive to resident and migratory birds.

Roughly one dozen Rocky Mountain Naturalist birders have been paying closer attention to this area in recent years and were pleased to register this new count circle for 2021.

In the villages of Wardner, Jaffray and Galloway, we found a significant number of dedicated residents who are actively keeping their feeders well stocked.  We look forward to regular visits to the South Country in all seasons, accumulating knowledge of bird populations and trends and meeting more of the local bird enthusiasts.

The weather was a significant factor for this year’s Cranbrook count on Boxing Day. The previous two days’ accumulation of snow affected driving conditions so several out-of-town participants couldn’t make it in and the going was slow on unplowed non-essential side streets and alleys for field counters throughout the day.

All species of feeder birds were average or below average except for Blue Jay (29) which were double their average.

Common Redpoll by H Knote

Rare appearances were made by an American Tree Sparrow, a Harris’s Sparrow, and a Red-winged Blackbird all at a feeder near Elizabeth Lake.  The total number of birds counted was 1,892, the seventh lowest number in the 24 years of the Cranbrook count. Nevertheless, the 43 species recorded on count day was average, surprisingly.

The weather was a little better for the Kimberley count on the second of January, except it started colder at -19°C rather than the -15°C low for the Cranbrook count.  For the first time ever, Red Crossbill (322) was our most numerous species, demoting the usual Bohemian Waxwing (304) to second place.  Notable misses were Pygmy Nuthatch, European Starling, and Pine Siskin.

Rare birds seen were a Horned Lark in with the Snow Buntings at Pine Butte Ranch, a Harris’s Sparrow at a feeder on the ski hill, and a lone Canada Goose braving out winter on Cameron Pond.

Rock Pigeon and Wild Turkey numbers are definitely rising in town. Most of the familiar regular feeder birds like the Chickadees, Nuthatches, Jays and Woodpeckers had good numbers in Kimberley. The total number of birds counted was 2, 270 individuals of 43 species – the same number of species as Cranbrook and Jaffray-Wardner this year.

The Jaffray-Wardner count also got 43 species.

For more details and the complete lists of birds see our webpage.

Lead image: Daryl Calder of Rocky Mountain Naturalists counting birds at Wasa Rest Area. Photo by C Rioux

Rocky Mountain Naturalists

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