Eight hardy bird watchers counted 3,441 birds in the Ashcroft-Cache Creek area on Dec. 23 for the 2014 annual Christmas Bird Count.
“While the total number of birds counted is near average, the number of species seen is frustratingly less than 40,” out of a possible 70 said team leader Karl Ricker.
The number of species has fallen from a high of 45 in 2005, the first year of the local count, to an average of 39 10 years later.
“Nonetheless,” he said, “it was a good count for raptors, geese, flickers, blackbirds, Bohemian waxwings and, surprisingly, Fox sparrows! – and, unfortunately, Eurasian collared-doves!”
The doves are a recent import to British Columbia and their numbers have been increasing rapidly in the past five years. They first appeared in the local count in 2005 with 17 being noted. This year their numbers were up to 234.
The Eurasian collared doves are mainly light gray with some white and a distinctive black “collar” around their necks, and are not to be confused with the rock pigeons, or doves, which have been here much longer. This year for the first time, one mourning dove was also spotted.
Duck numbers were down this year, possibly owing to higher than normal water levels because of the mild winter. Higher levels of water make it harder for the ducks to feed on plants on the river beds.
However, an outstanding 462 Canada geese were counted this year, thanks to two very large migrating flocks that were flying south.
Bald eagle numbers were slightly higher than normal, with the group spotting 39 adults and 24 juveniles, but there were only four hawks and two falcons spotted this year. And only one chukar, despite a valiant search for them.
“Not helping matters, this was the first year we missed on a Northern shrike, despite looking hard for one at Cache Creek,” said Ricker.
No owls were spotted this year, either.
The number of finches and sparrows was low. Magpie, raven and starling sightings were below average, while crows yielded the second highest count in 10 years: 301 were spotted this year, with 439 counted in 2008.
Bohemian waxwings were out in good numbers for the Count – 845 were spotted, but that is only the third hightest number in the Count’s 10 year history.
Participating in the 2014 Count were Karl Ricker (team leader) from Whistler, Bert Parke and Ray Town from Logan Lake, Marilyn Cram from Squamish, Sonja Matthews and Maria Russell Martin from Ashcroft, and Gary Winslow and Wendy Coomber from Cache Creek.
The Christmas “Bird Census” started in 1900. The Christmas Bird Count, as it is now called, is conducted in over 2,000 localities across Canada, the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. These bird observations have been amassed into a huge database that reflects the distribution and numbers of winter birds over time.