Bird feeders in this Salmon Arm backyard have been frequented often this winter by visiting sparrows. (Barb Brouwer photo)

Slight drop in annual Salmon Arm bird count, seed sales spike

Shuswap Naturalist Club bird spotters excited to see several owls

Barb Brouwer

Contributor

Weather might have been a factor in the annual Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 22.

Shuswap Naturalist Club president Ed McDonald says 67 different species were sighted by 27 Shuswap area residents who took part in the daylong event – down from an average of some 72 species.

“That’s slightly low, but the conditions were a bit foggy so it made it difficult for sightings,” he says.

Birds are counted in a 15-mile radius around the Salmon Arm wharf, a measurement that has been used since the count began, which was before the metric system came into effect in Canada.

By far, the biggest population was European starlings at 992 birds, followed by rock (feral) pigeons at 974 and 589 Bohemian waxwings.

Black-capped chickadees were plentiful at 464 birds, followed by 435 mallard ducks and 354 American goldfinches.

The count summary report compiled by Ted Hilary also noted 225 crows, 213 Eurasian collared doves, 184 trumpeter swans, 139 dark-eyed juncos, 124 common ravens and 114 red-shafted northern flickers.

Among other birds spotted in the Christmas count were woodpeckers, magpies, Steller’s jays, nuthatches and robins.

Read more: Rare sighting draws excited birdwatchers to the Shuswap

Read more: Birdseed sales spike as birds contend with cold snap

But McDonald says what caused a lot of excitement among the volunteers was the sighting of four owls – one Northern pygmy owl and one great grey owl, as well as one short-eared and one long-eared owl, which were spotted during the count week.

On the day of the count, which took place between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., volunteers covered a total of 11.5 kilometres on foot and 314 kilometres by car.

A total of 6,880 birds were spotted in the December count and a full list will be added to the Shuswap Naturalist Club’s website at www.shuswapnauralists.org in the near future.

While the count may have been down, bird seed has been flying off the shelf at Buckerfield’s, perhaps because of the deep snow and lack of seeds.

With the manager away, exact sales numbers are not available, but employees at the check-out know sales are good.

“Bird seed is up from last year, it’s selling like crazy,” says Brandi Verhagen.

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