Christmas Bird Counts just ahead

  • Dec. 10, 2012 4:00 p.m.

By Margo Hearne–It’s been an amazing fall for migrant birds on Haida Gwaii. Many warblers came through in late October and November; Bramblings, Wilson’s Warbler, Rustic Bunting and Purple Finch. The juncos at the feeder were joined by a White-throated Sparrow for a few days but the birds of the fall were the dramatic, stately Snowy Owls. About forty were seen between Masset and Sandspit. Quite a few died; the young ones don’t seem to know how to hunt, but many others made it to the southern mainland. Thanks to everyone who reported their sightings, it was a remarkable year for owls. Haida Gwaii did really well during last year’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC). We had the highest counts in North America for Yellow-billed Loons (17 Hecate Strait), Short-tailed Shearwaters (9 Rose Spit) and Thick-billed Murres (9 Hecate Strait). Most were offshore birds, but the Yellow-bills have been seen in Masset and Skidegate Inlet previously so it’s possible to find some inshore. The Skidegate Inlet Western Grebe count of 546 was the high for Canada and Delkatla had the only Least Sandpiper. Black Oystercatchers (157 Skidegate Inlet), Sanderling (607 Rose Spit), Rock Sandpiper (1 Skidegate Inlet) and Common Murres (2017 Hecate Strait) also topped the polls for Canada.You just never know what’s going to be out there. When we started thirty-one years ago, a Townsend’s Solitaire and a Cattle Egret appeared. We weren’t sure what was normal and what wasn’t, but the Little Bunting was definitely not, nor was the Mountain Bluebird. The only way to find out is to be out there with binoculars and a good heart to see what can be found. You don’t have to go far, even counting what shows up at your feeder makes a big difference. Every robin, every jay, every junco, every crow and every raven counted adds to the sum of bird knowledge and tells whether or not bird numbers are declining. The birds counted at Christmas, with the exception of exciting rarities, are on their home territory. We can only tell if they are winning or losing by counting them. Count dates: Skidegate Inlet Dec. 16 (includes Skidegate, Queen Charlotte (Barb 559 8207) and Sandspit Peter (626 5015); Greater Masset Dec. 27 (Peter 626 5015; Martin 626 3888); Port Clements Dec. 28 (Peter 626 5015); Tlell Dec. 29 (Sitka 557 4241).Hecate Strait – 1st week in January -weather dependentRose Spit – weather dependentLangara – weather dependentNaden Harbour – weather dependent