Kris Andrews spotted this Northern Pygmy Owl on White Road during last year’s annual Christmas bird count.

Kris Andrews spotted this Northern Pygmy Owl on White Road during last year’s annual Christmas bird count.

Christmas Bird Count Sunday

Sunday, Dec. 14 will mark the 47th consecutive year the Williams Lake Field Naturalists have conducted the Christmas Bird Count.

Sunday, Dec. 14 will mark the 47th consecutive year the Williams Lake Field Naturalists have conducted the Christmas Bird Count and 115 years since the original count was undertaken in 1900.

Since that time the number of counts have grown to the current 2,300 across North and Central America.

From its inception year in 1969 until 2000, data from the Williams Lake count was submitted to the provincial government, either the Fish and Wildlife Branch or the provincial museum.

Since 2000, data has been submitted to Birds Studies Canada and the Audubon Society who jointly administer the collection and distribution of the vast array of information obtained over the Christmas period.

Since the first count in 1969, the field naturalists have recorded about 120,000 birds of 119 species on the single day census run between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.

Numbers of birds and species vary from year to year with a scant 21 species tallied the first year to a high count of 62 species in 2008.

Several factors play an important role in the number of birds seen; from the numbers of observers in the field, to weather conditions on the day and in the preceding weeks.

Snow and ice conditions can determine availability and accessibility of food supply as well as variables like cone seed and berry crops.

A good fir and spruce cone crop last winter, as well as an ample supply of juniper berries resulted in a bumper year for both the fir seed eating Red Crossbills and the Townsend’s Solitaire which rely heavily on juniper berries for winter sustenance.

It was a record year for Solitaires with 85 counted which was not only the best total for this area but was also the highest on any count in Canada.

Red Crossbills which were quite common last winter have yet to be reported this season and indications are that Solitaires numbers are also down due in part to a poor berry crop.

Last year’s count of 3,953 birds of 47 species was below the 10-year average of 4,200 birds of 53 species and it’s difficult to predict what will turn up on Sunday, Dec. 14.

Even with the relatively low numbers last year there were still nine species which occurred in record high numbers, many of these at bird feeders.

With the early date of this year’s count there’s always the hope there will be some open water on Williams Lake to add to the variety of birds seen.

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 field naturalists encourage everyone with a feeder to let us know what they see on count day.

The count area is a 24 kilometre circle centred in downtown Williams Lake.

For more information on the Williams Lake Christmas Bird Count please contact Phil Ranson at 250 398-7110 or ranson1@telus.net.