Despite being chased out of Hamilton Marsh by hunters, the 24th annual Parksville Qualicum Beach Christmas Bird Count was a success on Sunday.
“It’s not untypical of counts, or birders in general,” explained organizer Sandra Gray.
“We like to hit it early in the day, so a group was walking in while it was still dark with flashlights and just as they were approaching the dock — boom, boom, boom,” she said of one of the eight team’s early morning adventure.
“They were shocked and horrified, thinking ‘are they shooting at us?'”
The group backed out without incident and returned later in the afternoon when they only saw a few ducks.
The numbers tallied this year were in the high-middle range of the long running event, with 35 people identifying 110 different species. That’s below the record 117, but Gray said there are still some feeder counts coming in that might edge that up some.
Overall they counted over 31,000 birds, again short of the 37,000 record, but not bad Gray said.
She said the numbers have generally gone up over the years mostly due to an increase in volunteers and more effort and knowledge put into how and where they look, now working with the cooperation of a lot of private land owners and organizations like the RDN, Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Trust and Island Timberlands.
While she didn’t have all the details yet, Gray said some of the highlights included seeing 70 Brant, which is quite high for this time of year, as was the 500 trumpeter swans and 500 ancient murlets.
On the low side was the count of only 270 eagles, which she said was likely due to all the fish having been washed out by the recent raging storm waters.
They also only saw one ring neck pheasant, which she said are usually more common.
The rarest sighting that jumped to mind was four Townsend’s solitaires on Little Mountain.
The information is forwarded to the Audubon Society, which uses the numbers from similar counts across North America to determine how various populations of birds are doing.
For more information call Gray at 250-248-5565.