A female hairy woodpecker bounces from branch to branch looking for just the right spot. /ANDREA ARNOLD

By Andrea Arnold
The annual Christmas Bird Count for the McBride area took place on Sunday Dec 18, 2022. It was a windless, sunny and very cold day.

Organizer Elsie Stanley reported that three birders in two groups drove through the count circle, and 19 people reported their bird feeder sightings.

“The species count tallied 20, an all-time low,” said Stanley. “There are 89 species on our cumulative tally since 1991.”

Some of the species that were noticeably absent on count day were Bohemian waxwings, resident house sparrows, bald eagles, hawks and owls. A local McBride resident had spotted approximately 60 waxwings and 12 house sparrows only a week earlier.
Among the unusually short list of species were a few rare sightings. The American tree sparrow was spotted, last seen during the count in 2002, 1995 and 1992.

Other birds not normally seen in the valley included a fox sparrow, three white-breasted nuthatch, including one out at LeGrand, and one eastern blue jay. Glen and Sheilagh Foster made the trip to Prince George and reported groups of Common Redpolls totalling at least 180 eating seeds on the highway between McBride and Slim Creek. Another counter also reported six mallards.

“Four song sparrows were found, and a record 70 dark-eyed junco,” said Stanley. “Two pine siskins were confirmed, and the flocks on the road included five red crossbills, and six pine grosbeak. One yard had six evening grosbeak, and a total of 13 Eurasian collared doves were reported.”

Information gathered through the Christmas Bird Count is sent to the National Audubon Society. The annual count began in 1900 is the longest running wildlife census.

“It is always fun, even when the weather is chilly,” said Stanley. “Every volunteer who braves the elements to take part in a count contributes to the study and conservation of birds.”

The data collected is used by scientists to monitor the health and status of resident and migratory birds. It also helps in the development of conservation strategies to help prevent the decline of various birds.

The Christmas count is an annual event that includes the area from the McIntosh to the Holmes, and they rely on local volunteers. This year there were only three individuals driving around the McBride area identifying and counting birds. They would welcome more willing participants for next year’s count.

There are several different counts that occur throughout the year. The next one is the Citizen Science event – The Great Backyard Bird Count held Feb 17-20. This four-day event collects bird data from all over the world. Participants are asked to watch birds at one site for 15 min at least once over the four days. Interested individuals can visit https://www.birdcount.org/participate/ for more information.

“It is lovely how many folks are feeder watchers,” said Stanley. “I hear about birds throughout the year. If people would like to be a part of the Robson Valley Naturalists informal reporting process, they can get on the list by emailing [email protected].”

Checking to make sure the coast is clear, this chickadee clings to a post above a bird feeder before venturing down for a snack. /ANDREA ARNOLD