Annual Christmas Bird Count starts Saturday

Last year there were 141 species identified in the region

The weather forecasters are not being kind to Greater Victoria birders getting set for the annual Christmas Bird Count this Saturday (Dec. 17).

“The forecast for the week isn’t particularly great, but barring a repeat of the Blizzard of ’96, our teams will be out in force,” said Ann Nightingale, coordinator for the Victoria Christmas Bird Count Circle.

Last year, a record setting 241 field participants headed to the streets, parks and beaches to count all the birds they could find. The teams contributed more than 500 party hours, covering more than 1,100 kilometres in their search, and counting a total of 71,761 individual birds of 141 species.

The species total was the highest of all the Canadian counts in 2015.

“Surprisingly,” Nightingale said, “we had more counters and better weather, but came up 5,000 birds short of our 2014 total. Fluctuations are normal, but can also be part of longer term trends.”

Last year, two birds that had never been recorded on a Victoria Christmas Bird Count: a yellow-breasted chat that should have been wintering in Central America, and a redwing that should have been lounging near the Mediterranean.

“The Redwing was the star of the show by far,” said Nightingale. “People travelled from Florida, Texas, New England, Ohio, and other places around the continent to come to Strawberry Vale in Saanich to see this bird.

“Right now, there are a few birds in town that shouldn’t be here. There’s a tropical kingbird at 10 Mile Point, a Western bluebird in Colwood, and a mountain bluebird in Central Saanich.  All of them would make great additions to this year’s count. Of course, we’re hoping the redwing will return, too.”

While new field counters are always welcome, Nightingale is optimistic that colder weather may generate more feeder watchers.

“People can contribute by reporting the birds from their own backyards,” Nightingale said.

Nightingale has produced a brochure with photos of 28 of the most common  species people are likely to see around their feeders and gardens. The brochure is available for download at http://christmasbirdcount.ca/bcvi/feederwatchbrochure.pdf )

There are several Christmas Bird Count Circles on southern Vancouver Island with count dates from Dec. 17 to Jan. 1. For more information, photos of local birds, or to register to participate, please visit http://naturevictoria.ca/cbc or email victoriacbc@naturevictoria.ca