Kelowna's Christmas bird count reveals couple new twists | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna's Christmas bird count reveals couple new twists

Many birds have already flown south, but the Downy and Hairy woodpeckers stay put for the winter.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/ WildSafeBC
December 23, 2020 - 11:00 AM

A straggler, a new inhabitant and a more robust than usual variety have thus far been the more significant findings of this year’s Christmas bird count in Kelowna, an organizer says.

The count, which dates back to 1963 in Kelowna, sees birders hit urban and forested area in a 12-kilometre radius to see how many bird species they can find, organizer Chris Charlesworth said Dec. 21. Similar counts occur across the Okanagan, and beyond. In fact, it’s a bit of competition for bragging rights that Kelowna often comes up on top of.

“When we did our count in Kelowna on Saturday we did have a few more species than normal,” Charlesworth said, adding that the overall number so far is 111 and last year there was just 110.

There’s no way to entirely know what caused the slight uptick but Charlesworth said it’s been pretty mild, weather-wise, and some birds have yet to leave for their winter migration.

That may be why someone saw the Wilson Warbler at Rotary Marsh. The bird flies in during the warmer months but then goes to Central America for winter, Charlesworth said.

“So far it’s been mild and there’s not been much snow,” he said.

If it doesn’t take off before winter’s chill sets in, though, it’s unclear whether it will survive. It’s only appeared in the winter bird count three times since 1963.

Another unusual sighting was the Lesser Goldfinch — the descriptor reflects its size not the amount of interest it generates. Charlesworth said there’s never been one in the area before.

“They are from the western U.S. but in the last few years they have been spreading north a little bit,” he said.

While counting a wide variety of species is a birder’s delight, it’s also a good way to get the pulse of the local environment.

“By collecting the information of wintering birding populations over a long time, you see changes due to habitat loss and things like that,” he said. “It’s a good indicator of the state of the environment.”

In this year’s case, the new inhabitants were enjoying the long, warm lead into winter.

Another good indicator of the current state of things was the way the bird count was held.

Since COVID-19, birding has taken off with more and more people keeping an eye to the sky and tracking different species — many using the app eBird.

“It’s also normally a big social event… normally we have big gatherings of 60 to 70 on the count but we couldn’t do that this year,” he said.

Usually, he also asks people for help, but that’s not necessary this year.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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