Birds of Nakusp

Columnist Gary Davidson counted birds over Christmas.

Started in 1900, the Christmas Bird Count is North America’s longest-running Citizen Science project. Counts happen in over 2000 localities throughout the Western Hemisphere. The information collected by thousands of volunteer participants forms one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife survey data. The results are used daily by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess the population trends and distribution of birds. Each Christmas Bird Count is conducted on a single day between December 14 and January 5. Counts are carried out within a 24-km diameter circle that stays the same from year to year. Each count is organized at the local level. On December 30th, 10 observers participated in the annual Nakusp Christmas Bird Count, which has been conducted annually since 1975.

Historically, the Nakusp count has produced an average of 42 species and 1450 individual birds. This year we counted only 40 species and 770 individuals. The low number of individual birds is largely due to the absence of the ‘winter finches’. Species like Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, and Evening Grosbeak are very variable from year to year. Collectively, these four species account of an average of about 550 individuals each year. This year we had just a single Common Redpoll and the other three species were totally absent.

There were three unexpected species on this year’s list. Seven Tundra Swans were seen in the bay next to the Nakusp Public wharf; a Northern Goshawk was seen taking down a Common Goldeneye next to the Nakusp Sewage Lagoon; and a Short-eared Owl was seen over the fields in Brouse. The goshawk was particularly interesting. It hit the duck on the air but when they went to ground they both landed in deep soft snow. The predator was unable to get a grip on its prey and they both disappeared below the snow. A few seconds later the duck popped up to the surface about 2 metres away from the goshawk. Both floundering in the soft snow, the duck tried to flap away with the goshawk in pursuit. In the end, the goshawk managed to get a good grip on his prey and end the battle.

Following is a complete list of species seen on the count.

Tundra Swan – 7; Mallard – 14; Bufflehead – 2; Common Goldeneye – 11; Barrow’s Goldeneye – 5; Horned Grebe – 4; Rock Pigeon – 2; Eurasian Collared Dove – 45; Herring Gull – 3; Bald Eagle – 10; Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1; Northern Goshawk – 1; Barred Owl – 1; Short-eared Owl – 1; Downy Woodpecker – 5; Hairy Woodpecker – 2; Northern Flicker – 55; Pileated Woodpecker – 2; Northern Shrike – 1; Steller’s Jay – 23; American Crow – 33; Common Raven – 217; Black-capped Chickadee – 81; Mountain Chickadee – 11; Chestnut-backed Chickadee – 68; Red-breasted Nuthatch – 30; Brown Creeper – 2; Pacific Wren – 1; American Dipper – 4; Golden-crowned Kinglet – 27; Townsend’s Solitaire – 1; European Starling – 7; Bohemian Waxwing – 3; Pine Grosbeak – 30; House Finch – 1; Common Redpoll – 1; Song Sparrow – 25; White-throated Sparrow – 1; Dark-eyed Junco – 13; Red-winged Blackbird – 17.

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