A record-high tally was recorded as the Arrowsmith Naturalists held the 30th annual Parksville Qualicum Beach Christmas Bird Count.
The event involved 50 keen birders in the field, as well as 76 feeder counters that surveyed a 24-kilometre diameter circle centred at French Creek Marina.
The count results contribute to the 121st National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count, North Americas longest-running citizen science project.
Due to COVID-19 protocols the count strategy changed slightly to encourage smaller count teams and personal social distancing.
The event was held in near-perfect weather and sea conditions contributed to the record high count of 123 species observed on count day and also the most individual birds tallied on a Parksville Qualicum Beach bird count, 37,893.
There were 14 species with record-high numbers and six species recorded as rare or unusual, most notably a common pochard, a duck found in Europe and a rare visitor to Alaska. It has only been seen once before on Vancouver Island. Other unusual species were eared grebe, glaucous gull and swamp sparrow.
Offshore, there were 1,807 ancient murrelet and 35 rhinoceros auklet reported flying. Dunlin were the most common shorebird tallied at 2,268. At the feeders, the most common bird was pine siskin with a total of 2,200. Combined with the field count results, the total pine siskins was 6,559, short of the historical high of 10,420 for Parksville Qualicum Beach.
Feeder count participants make an important contribution to the overall success of this endeavour as much of the count circle contains private residences. Close to 80 observers put in 154.5 hours of effort, identified 62 species and counted 6,062 individual birds.
Along with the many pine siskins, there were 1,275 dark-eyed juncos, 266 chestnut-backed chickadees, 206 spotted towhees and 168 anna’s hummingbirds. Some unusual observations included one hermit thrush, and two American Goldfinches.
The success of the 30th annual bird count is the result of the hard work by Lynne Brookes, who co-ordinated the feeder count, the experience from past counts shared by Sandra Gray, and the organizing and compiling by Susan Knoerr, according to organizers.
A summary of the Christmas Bird Counts held in British Columbia can be found on the BC Field Ornithologists website at https://bcfo.ca.
— NEWS Staff, submitted