Starlings, ducks dominate bird count

Poor visibility hampered but did not shut down the Shuswap Naturalists Club’s annual 2015 bird count

Birders in action: Ed Dahl

Birders in action: Ed Dahl

Poor visibility hampered but did not shut down the Shuswap Naturalists Club’s annual 2015 bird count.

It snowed off and on in the morning, which made observing birds difficult, but the afternoon was considerably better,” says organizer Ted Hillary of the Dec. 20 event. “There were 25 participants in seven parties surveying a 24 kilometre circle surrounding Salmon Arm.”

Despite the morning’s poor visibility, counters spotted 9,013 birds from 78 species, which is compatible with the long-term average.

In addition, four species were seen during count week, bringing the total to 82.

A record number of common loons were seen – nine on Shuswap Lake between Canoe and Sunnybrae.

“The previous high was two, a record set only last year,” Hillary said, noting 10 cackling geese, a smaller version of the Canada goose, were also spotted. “These were swimming in the Salmon Arm Bay at Raven.”

The European starling had the highest population at 1,058, closely followed by mallards at 1,019, 944 Canada geese and 805 Bohemian waxwings.

Twenty-one species of waterfowl were seen, thanks to the amount of open water, says Hillary.

Four species of owls were spotted – two great grey owls were spied east of town along with one barred owl, and there was one great horned owl and one short-eared owl near the mouth of the Salmon River .

The totals of other species were about average, says Hillary. They included – 22 great blue herons, eight tundra swans, 130 trumpeter swans, 100 cackling geese, 944 Canada geese, some 1,636 types of  ducks.

Bird watchers also saw 85 hooded mergansers, 452 common mergansers,   nine common loon, 12 horned grebes, 23 western grebes and two pied billed grebes.

The collection of birds of prey included, one sharp shinned hawk, two Cooper’s hawks, 16 red tailed hawks, one rough-legged hawk, 66 bald eagles, one American kestrel, one Merlin and one peregrine falcon spotted during count week.

Also spied were two ruffled grouse, 64 California quail, 30 ring-necked pheasants, 102 American coots, one ring-billed gull, one herring gull and 375 rock pigeons.

There were 101 Eurasian collared doves, and 56 mourning doves, seven hair woodpeckers, 14 downy woodpeckers and eight of their pileated cousins.