Birders take the North Okanagan by storm, counting highest number of species in five years - InfoNews

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Birders take the North Okanagan by storm, counting highest number of species in five years

American Tree Sparrow
Image Credit: Chris Siddle
January 08, 2018 - 8:30 PM

VERNON - An increase in wild turkeys is just one of the trends birders in the North Okanagan are reporting after this year’s Christmas bird count.

Marnie Williamson, with the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club, says 60 people were out on Dec. 17 and recorded 93 different species — the highest since 2012.

The group has been holding bird counts for at least 20 years, and Williamson says the origins of the Christmas bird count date back to 1900 in North America.

“The data is given to Bird Studies Canada,” Williamson says. “They keep track of the stats year over year to determine what’s happening with bird species.”

She says it’s an exciting project to be part of, although it can be disheartening at times to see certain bird species on the decline.

“It’s hard to say if it’s cyclical or not, but one that seems to be shrinking is the Rufous hummingbird,” she says, noting a bird count is also done in the warmer months.

One species that seems to be expanding its range is the wild turkey. It’s native to B.C., but in the past has usually been seen more in the Southern Interior and Nakusp, Williamson says.

“In the years I’ve been here, it seems to be increasing,” Williamson says.

The count is made possible through dedicated volunteers who cover the North Okanagan on foot, with snowshoes and by car.

“They’ll listen for calls of birds too, because those are counted too even if there isn’t a sighting,” Williamson says.

There’s special recognition at the end of the day for the person with the “sighting of the year” (this time, a Canyon Wren).

“There’s some friendly competition with Kelowna to see who gets more,” Williamson says.

The competition takes a back seat to a love of birding, however, with lots of volunteers partaking in both the Vernon and Kelowna counts, which are held on different days.


Northern Shoveler and Northern Pintail (not seen at every count)

1,011 Common Mergansers (unusually high number for the count)

12 Wild Turkeys (seem to be increasing)

1 Pacific Loon on Okanagan Lake

3 Great Blue Herons (usually a few stay over the winter)

5 Golden Eagles

1 Peregrine Falcon

1 Glaucous Gull (rare gull for our count)

1 Northern Saw-whet Owl

2 Northern Shrike

1 Canyon Wren (voted Bird of the Day)

7 White-throated Sparrows (seem to becoming more common)

1 Yellow-headed Blackbird

220 Common Redpolls (not seen at every count)

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