Sunday, Dec. 16 will mark the 51st consecutive year the Williams Lake Field Naturalists (WLFN) have conducted a Christmas Bird Count and 119 years since the original counts began in 1900.
Last year, the Christmas Bird Count included a record-setting 2,585 count circles, with 463 in Canada, 1,957 counts in the US and 165 in Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands.
This was the eighth-straight year of record-breaking counts. In total, 76,987 observers out in the field and watching feeders tallied up 59,242,067 birds representing 2,673 different species—about one-quarter of the world’s known avifauna.
Approximately five per cent of the North American landmass was surveyed by the Christmas Bird Count.
Since the first local count in 1969, The WLFN have recorded 138,560 birds of 118 species on the single day census run during a 24-hour period between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
Read More: Christmas bird count set for Sunday, Dec. 18
Numbers of birds and species vary from year to year with a scant 21 species tallied that first year to a high count of 62 species in 2008.
Last year’s count of 56 species was above the 10- year average of 52 but the total of 6,501 birds seen was a record high number, fully 2,000 above the average.
The primary reason for such a large total can be attributed to an estimated 2,437 Bohemian Waxwings which accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the overall count.
This is the largest number of waxwings ever recorded in the 50-year history of the count.
Several factors play an important role in the number of birds seen; from the number of observers in the field, to weather conditions on the day and in the preceding weeks.
Snow and ice conditions can determine the availability and accessibility of food supply as well as variables like cone seed and berry crops. Mild conditions allowing some open water on Williams Lake generally add duck and grebe species to the list but severe cold can also bring in some of the irruptive finch species such as redpolls, pine grosbeaks and crossbills to the lower elevations.
Bird feeders attract not only our more common species but also provide us with some quite unusual birds in winter.
The Scarlet Tanager frequenting a Terra Ridge feeder on the 2012 count was a once in a lifetime occurrence.
Feeder watchers contribute greatly to the count and the WLFN encourage everyone with a feeder to let us know what they see on count day.
The count area is a 24- km diameter centred in downtown Williams Lake.
To report the birds at your feeder on Dec. 16 or for more information on the Williams Lake Christmas Bird Count contact Phil Ranson at 250 398-7110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.