The Williams Lake Field Naturalist will be holding their 52nd annual Christmas bird count on Sunday, Dec. 15.
As usual, we rely heavily on people in the count area to phone in or email their bird feeder reports or any other sightings of interest during the day. We expect to have over 30 participants in the field on count day who will be happy to help with identifying any birds you may be unsure of.
The count area covers a 12 km radius from downtown Williams Lake which includes Wildwood south to Flett subdivision on the Dog Creek Road, and from the Moon Ranch at Meldrum Creek to Frontier Estates at 150 Mile House in the east.
Results of the count are submitted to Birds Canada and Audubon where they are entered into a database along with over 2,000 other counts across the Americas. These results, going back as far as 1900, are used by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess the population trends and distribution of birds.
It’s hard to predict the outcome of these events due to many variables like weather conditions, snow cover, amount of open water remaining on Williams Lake, available food supply and often the erratic distribution of flocks that come down from the north to winter in the area.
This winter Bohemian Waxwings have been particularly scarce after two years of abundance where they have made up about 40 per cent of the overall count numbers. The waxwings have a food preference for mountain ash berries which seem to have had a particularly poor crop this year.
Also scarce this year are the forest finches which often have widely fluctuating numbers. These ‘irruptive’ species like Red Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and Pine and Evening Grosbeaks can be locally abundant some winters, but all seem to be in short supply or absent this year.
Last year’s count was the second-best ever in terms of overall numbers with a little under 6,000 birds tallied but only slightly above the average of 53 species. This included two new species to the count with two Gadwall, a common duck at other times of the year, and 10 Cedar Waxwings which have normally departed for the winter before the Bohemians arrive.
People who regularly feed birds reported very few birds were attending their feeders last year, possibly due to lack of snow cover and available food elsewhere. Of particular concern following last year’s count was the very low numbers of our common woodpeckers. Fluctuations in numbers can often be cyclic and we are hoping the numbers will have rebounded.
To report the birds at your feeder on Dec. 15 please phone (250) 392-7680 after 6 p.m. on count day, or for more information on the Williams Lake Christmas bird count contact Phil Ranson at (250) 398-7110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phil Ranson is a member of the Williams Lake Field Naturalists