Sandra Gray is over the moon this week after the number of birds recorded in the 21st annual Christmas bird count on the weekend went over the top.
The count, held on Dec. 18, saw 40 avian enthusiasts fan out in seven teams to record as many species and individual birds as they could.
“Overall, the weather was the best I can remember over the 21 years of the doing the count,” Gray said, noting however that wind on the shoreline was brisk at times, producing choppy seas which made identification more difficult.
That fine weather allowed the birders to count 109 species, with 33,000 individual birds recorded. Gray noted that total does not include the birds counted at bird feeder stations, which will be tabulated later.
“Historically, the Parksville-Qualicum Christmas Bird Count has ranged from 89 to 117 species, with the number of individuals ranging from 9,562 to 33,512, so it looks like we could be over the top this year.”
Traditionally, she added, the bird feeder count adds about 1,000 more to the tally.
Of particular interest in this year’s count, she said, was a Snowy Owl in the area of Parksville Community Park, seen on Saturday being harassed by a flock of gulls.
The most numerous birds, not surprisingly, were seagulls, with about 12,000 tallied. Far back in second place were 2,223 Pine Siskins, with 1,243 European Starlings in third, followed by 1,209 Pacific Loons, 1,110 Canada Geese and 504 Ancient Murrelets.
Gray stressed however that some of these numbers may be low.
“Out on the Strait of Georgia there was a southward movement of numerous birds that were too far out to identify and count accurately. Pacific Loons, gulls and alcids were noted in high numbers, with many more suspected.”
At the top of many people’s list of must-see species was the Bald Eagle, of which 404 were counted, most of them along the banks of the Little Qualicum River. Also spectacular were 226 Trumpeter Swans.
Other unusual finds included 12 Rhinoceros Auklets and one rare Glaucous Gull and Anna’s Hummingbirds spotted in several neighbourhoods.
The event, sponsored by the Arrowsmith Naturalists, wrapped up with a potluck dinner.
Gray thanked the Parksville Buckerfields store, as well as numerous land owners who allowed access to their properties.