By Phil Ranson
Special to the Tribune
The 53rd annual Williams Lake Christmas Bird Count was held on Dec. 20, a day which may well be remembered by the 30 counters for the mild weather, bright afternoon sunshine and the temperature at Williams Lake Airport reaching a record high 4.8C for the date. Williams Lake was mostly ice-free and for probably the first time in count history, kayaks were seen on the water and used on the count.
The long held belief that good weather doesn’t necessarily make for a good bird count held reasonably true once again with a roughly average count for recent years with 5,015 birds counted of 53 species.
Two new birds were recorded on the count for the first time; an Anna’s Hummingbird coming to a Gibbon Street feeder, and a Blue Jay which has been visiting feeders in the Flett Road area for several weeks. This brings the aggregate number of birds recorded on the 53 counts to 123 species.
There were few other surprises on the count and still some concern with our regular woodpecker numbers remaining low, although rebounding marginally from the disastrous count in 2018. In contrast, the Northern Flicker was counted with a record high number of 83 which is 14 higher than the previous high set in 2014.
With access to the Williams Lake river valley restricted and high water levels, several species normally seen were not counted this year. There were no American Dippers seen on the count for only the third time in the count’s history. Green-winged Teal, which are often found in the river backwaters also went uncounted.
Despite the open water, particularly the Scout Island marsh, the diversity of water birds had been thinned out considerably by the late fall cold snap. There was however, a record number of Common Goldeneye present in smaller groups throughout the lake.
The only other noteworthy high count was for the introduced house sparrows which made their presence known by their spring-like churping from the hedgerows around town.
The counts are as follows:
Nine Canada Goose, 53 Mallards, two Lesser Scaups, eight Buffleheads, 62 Common Goldeneyes, one Barrow’s Goldeneye, five Common Mergansers, five Hooded Mergansers, one Ruffed Grouse, four Pied-billed Grebes, 478 Rock Pigeons, 12 Eurasian Collared Doves, one Anna’s Hummingbird, six American Coots, 21 Bald Eagles, one Northern Harrier, three Red-tailed Hawks, one Golden Eagle, three Northern Pygmy Owls, one Barred Owl, one Great Gray Owl, 17 Downy Woodpeckers, 18 Hairy Woodpeckers, 83 Northern Flickers, one Black-backed Woodpecker, nine Pileated Woodpeckers, two Merlins, four Northern Shrikes, 13 Canada Jays, one Blue Jay, 11 Black-billed Magpies,226 American Crows, 192 Common Ravens, 255 Black-capped Chickadees, 224 Mountain Chickadees, 103 Red-breasted Nuthatch, five Brown Creepes, one Marsh Wren, 53 Townsend’s Solitaire, seven American Robins, two Varied Thrush, 230 European Starlings, 1,558 Bohemian Waxwings, one Spotted Towhee, 25 Song Sparrows, two White-throated Sparrows, one White-crowned Sparrow, one Harris’s Sparrow, 154 Dark-eyed Junco, five Red-winged Blackbirds, three Rusty Blackbirds, 22 Evening Grosbeaks, 42 Pine Grosbeaks, 286 House Finch, three Common Redpolls, 146 Pine Siskins, 56 American Goldfinch and 580 House Sparrows.