A spreadsheet of the current bird count in Williams Lake. (Photo submitted)

A spreadsheet of the current bird count in Williams Lake. (Photo submitted)

Despite windy conditions, lakecity birdwatchers take a comprehensive look at local avian species

Waxwings make a big return this year alongside unseasonal levels of waterfowl

Hundreds of birds were counted in Williams Lake as the unusual weather conditions made for an up and down count of unseasonal and seasonal species respectively.

Dec. 16, as 35 bird counters set out at first light on the annual Williams Lake Christmas Bird count, wind speeds at the airport were being monitored at 45 km/hr gusting to 71 km/hr and were to increase during the morning before moderating only slightly for the remainder of the day.

Weather plays a key role in the success of the bird count and no condition affects it as adversely as high winds. Birds tend to stay hunkered down, calls are often drowned out and the constant swaying branches make it difficult to pick out the movement of birds.

One factor which would seem to provide an advantage was the exceptionally mild conditions but this proved to be a detriment as many of the bird feeders were strangely quiet with some normally productive feeders showing a complete absence of birds. Partially explaining this would be the lack of snow cover and a good seed and berry crop allowing birds to forage widely without the need to concentrate around a well-stocked feeder.

The wind was also proved to be a double-edged sword pushing away the ice forming along the edges of Williams Lake and allowing several duck species to remain beyond their normal departure dates. One duck species, the Gadwall was recorded for a count first when two males were spotted at Scout Island. The Gadwall is a fairly common dabbling duck in the breeding season in the Cariboo but is usually one of the first to leave in the fall. Other ducks to remain included a record 24 Lesser Scaup and 30 Common Goldeneye.

Read More: Endangered pelicans have “guarded prognosis ” after Puntzi Lake rescue

A pair of stately Trumpeter Swans also remained at Scout Island as the winds and the moderate temperatures kept the channels through the marsh open. These swans will stay as far north as conditions allow and can now be found in good numbers on larger open waters such as Quesnel Lake throughout the winter.

This year’s count was again a tale of the waxwings. Last year a record number of Bohemian Waxwings contributed to over 40 per cent of the overall total. This year the waxwings were back again in good numbers only slightly lower than last year, but to add to the variety, Cedar Waxwings were also added to the count for the first time. Cedar Waxwing is not uncommon as a breeding bird but rarely overlap with the Bohemians which swarm into the area from the north to spend the winter.

Another bird seen in record numbers was the Eurasian Collared-Dove which have swept across the continent from a single point of introduction in Florida. The first one on our count was seen in 2011. Last Sunday 59 were recorded including a single flock of 30 along Pigeon Avenue. It will be interesting to see where this increasing population levels out and what effect it will have on native species.

One bird which doesn’t seem to mind the wind at all is the high flying Bald Eagle and 46 were tallied as they tracked across the 450 square kilometre count area.

The count also revealed an alarming reduction in woodpecker species. All our regulars; Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers and the Northern Flicker were down considerably. The Hairy Woodpecker had its lowest ever number on the 51 years of the count with only seven seen. An average number would be around 30 with a high of 50 in 2006. There is probably some correlation with these numbers and the lack of birds at feeders, but not entirely explained considering typical feeder species such as Chickadees were only a little below average.

As the day wrapped up, the count species finally stood at 53 which is marginally higher than the recent average. Notably absent from the list was the Pine Grosbeak which dominated the count last year with 340. This is not all that unusual for these irruptive boreal forest finch species. The final tally on individual bird numbers was 5,968 which surprisingly was only 500 less than last year’s record count and comprised once again of a significant proportion of Bohemian Waxwings.

The Williams Lake Field Naturalists would like to thank all who participated in the field and those that watched their feeders – often with little reward.



patrick.davies@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Quesnel Search and Rescue are looking for a missing snowmobiler on Yanks Peak Monday, Nov. 23. They are being assisted by the Wells RCMP, Wells Snowmobile Club and neighbouring search and rescue teams. (Quesnel Search and Rescue)
Search underway for missing snowmobiler out of Wells, Yanks Peak area

Two riders went missing while sledding on Yanks Peak Nov. 22. One is still missing.

Williams Lake RCMP Officer in Charge Insp. Jeff Pelley speaks to city council. (Monica Lamb Yorski photo)
Williams Lake ranks seventh on crime severity index

“We will continue to do everything we can to keep our community safe”: RCMP Insp. Jeff Pelley

Many members of the Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club, not all of which are pictured here, volunteered their time to make the Bull Mountain family fun day happen in 2020. (Patrick Davies photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club gearing up for busy season ahead

Work from volunteers has gone into creating signage and creating a COVID-19 protocol and safety plan

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File Photo)
RANCH MUSINGS: Perennial cereals and their potential to heal

I was excited to read that Intermediate wheatgrass is now approved for human use in the U.S.

A memorandum agreement is being signed with between the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Friendship Society for the longhouse at the Stampede Grounds to be used as temporary COVID-19 quarantine housing if needed. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City drafts agreement for Longhouse as temporary COVID quarantine housing

The Cariboo Friendship Society owns the building and leases property from the city

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Bank of Montreal, located on Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver. (Google Maps)
Heiltsuk man files human rights complaint against Vancouver police, BMO after bank arrest

Pair remains distraught after employee falsely reports fraud in progress leading to their arrest

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

BCHL
BCHL pushes back season start due to provincial health orders

The delay is minimal, just six days, for now. But the league is open to starting up after Christmas

Most Read