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Plenty of tweets at Christmas bird count

Bad weather may have kept the birds at bay for the annual Christmas bird count but there were still several surprises in store for Tri-City volunteers.

Organizer John Reynolds said 50 volunteers turned out for the count, which was held on Dec. 15. They tallied 7,101 birds and 81 separate species in an area ranging from northeast Coquitlam/Burke Mountain down to Colony Farm and from Como Lake to Shoreline Park in Port Moody.

The numbers are down from last year's count, when more than 10,000 birds were tallied (up from 8,700 in 2010 and 6,400 in 2009).

"We were braving some pretty miserable conditions," Reynolds said. "But despite the bad weather, it was pretty much exactly on average, the number of species seen."

Volunteers logged a rare sighting of a sandhill crane along the Pitt River, a surprise since the breed doesn't usually spend the winter in that part of Metro Vancouver.

They also counted five Anna's hummingbirds, a type that used to be extremely rare in southern B.C., Reynolds said. "Their numbers have been increasing, probably due to the warmer winters we tend to have nowadays," he said.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came from the most unlikely of places. Volunteers spotted a flock of 20 Wilson's snipe and eight western meadowlarks in a small field near Costco in Port Coquitlam.

"These are birds that are rarely recorded west of the Pitt River and both rely on rough fields or pastures," Reynolds said. "These habitats have been disappearing very rapidly throughout Greater Vancouver due to conversion to cranberry farms... and in the case of Costco, all the development going on around there.

"The message we got from this is even these small little oases of habitat can be incredibly important."

Burke Mountain Naturalists organize the annual bird count west of the Pitt River. All the collected data is sent to Bird Studies Canada, which shares it with the National Audubon Society in the U.S.

The Christmas bird count was started at the turn of the 20th century to replace an annual bird hunt. The local count was initiated in the early 1990s.

spayne@tricitynews.com

 

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