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Posted: January 15, 2023

Naturalists gather info on winter bird populations

Brown Creeper by Lyle Grisedale

The second annual Jaffray РWardner Christmas Bird Count (BCJW) occurred on Thursday, December 15, with 14 field counters and two feeder watchers. The first formal count of this area occurred in 2021, on the same date.

During the past few years, naturalists have arranged to meet on Wednesday mornings throughout the year, to look for birds. Early morning birders go to a number of East Kootenay locations which are known to be frequented by birds. Many of the early birders are familiar with the Jaffray ‚Äď Wardner area thanks to a number of trips during recent years.

Light winds, average temperatures and overcast skies favoured bird activity and observer success on BCJW count day.

A total of four coordinated teams explored each of the four mapped quadrants in order to systematically inventory bird populations in a way which will provide consistent data for the future.

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running citizen science project in the world, and this data contributes a wealth of understanding regarding bird population trends and distribution.

The ‘count circle’ is a large area, with a diameter of 24 kilometres enclosing 452 square kilometeres! Of course, only a fraction of the area can be surveyed during the eight or so hours that birders are willing to spend during daylight hours in the field. We drive and walk to as many areas as possible, especially those which are known to have bird activity.

Many birds can be detected by the sounds that they generate. For example, whistling or beating wings, pecking intensity and patterns as well as songs or calls help the observers to locate and identify the individuals and their species. Observers with good hearing and listening skills are crucial to the count. Evidence of recent bird activity can be seen especially when light snow has fallen. Bark chips, fruit or cone fragments, and spilled chaff and seeds from feeders, along with wing and footprints in the snow are helpful.

Sadly, road and rail collisions with wildlife are far too common. The resulting death of deer and elk attracts scavengers to transportation corridors. Here, Black billed Magpies, Bald Eagles, Common Ravens and American Crows are easily found in considerable numbers.

Open water provides opportunities for those birds that are capable of finding food in water bodies. Whether they search the stream bottoms for invertebrates or vegetation, or catch fish and bugs, these birds must move to milder regions to survive. On both counts, open water was very limited.

Birders use their experience and tools, look and listen for clues and strive to solve the identification puzzles to strengthen the quality and quantity of the data.

Dark-eyed Junco. Photo by Claude Rioux

Apparently, the two counts have established many similarities and a few differences in bird populations. The weather and lack of open water were similar. Also, most of the counters participated in both counts.

Both counts recorded species totals in the mid-forties. This year, we recorded seven species which were not seen last year, and did not detect eight species seen earlier. This suggests that more than 50 species can be found during early winter in this part of the East Kootenay.

Differences in the lists include the number of Mallards, Goldeneyes, Wild Turkeys, Bald Eagles, American Crows, American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos and Red Crossbills.

Naturalists look forward to many more Christmas Bird Counts in the region with well-organized opportunities in Windermere, Fernie, Eureka Montana, Creston, Kimberley, Cranbrook and Jaffray-Wardner.

CBC Jaffray-Wardner                        CBC Jaffray-Wardner

December 15, 2021                            December 15, 2022

Canada Goose                                 12                  0

Mallard                                           67               244

Green-winged Teal                           1                   0

Bufflehead                                        5                   8

Common Goldeneye                         2                 20

Common Merganser                         0                   3

Ruffed Grouse                                 10                 20

Wild Turkey                                  119                 31

Great Blue Heron                              1                   3

Golden Eagle                                     1                   1

Bald Eagle                                         6                 23

Red-tailed Hawk                               2                   1

Rough-legged Hawk                         1                   1

Rock Pigeon                                      6                   4

Eurasian Collared-dove                   32                 22

Northern Pygmy Owl                        1                   1

Belted Kingfisher                              2                   0

Downy Woodpecker                       12                  13

Hairy Woodpecker                            3                   7

Northern Flicker                              41                  30

Pileated Woodpecker                         3                   3

Merlin                                                0                   1

Northern Shrike                                 0                   3

Canada Jay                                        2                    0

Steller’s Jay                                       4                    4

Blue Jay                                             2                  12

Black-billed Magpie                         12                 11

Clark’s Nutcracker¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†14¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†0

American Crow                               157               35

Common Raven                                80              102

Black-capped Chickadee                 113              107

Mountain Chickadee                         15                39

Chickadee, species unknown            17                 5

Red-breasted Nuthatch                      57                70

Brown Creeper                                    2                  1

American Dipper                                 3                 3

Golden-crowned Kinglet                    1                  1

Townsend’s Solitaire¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†22¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† 19

American Robin                                  1                14

European Starling                                0                14

Bohemian Waxwing                            0                90

Dark-eyed Junco                                  4              169

Song Sparrow. Photo by Claude Rioux

Song Sparrow                                     10                13

House Finch                                        51               15

Cassin’s Finch¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬† ¬† 0¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† 2

Red Crossbill                                      98               28

White-winged Crossbill                        0                 1

Common Redpoll                                  9                 0

Evening Grosbeak                               32               39

House Sparrow                                    14               36

Northern Pintail                                     1                0

Grey crowned Rosy Finch                     2                0

Passerine, unknown                                    6                2

Total sightings                                           1057          1272

Total species                                               45              44

Lead image: A Belted Kingfisher. Photo by Claude Rioux

Submitted by Daryl Calder 

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