The results of the annual Christmas bird count are in – and they’re encouraging.
Once all the tallies were in, close to 58,000 birds had been recorded and 114 species noted, everything from a Cackling Goose to a Great Bkue Heron, compared to 112 species last year.
Counted on Dec. 29, 2022, bird enthusiasts from Aldergrove, Langley, White Rock and Surrey – including several new birders who joined in this year – were busy counting all the birds they could see and hear, many out in groups on the cold, drizzly day, while count co-ordinator Gareth Pugh said several people called in with counts taken at feeders from their own yards, something Pugh said is greatly appreciated and helps the count immensely.
The ocean was calm on Dec. 29 with good visibility, but very few birds were seen on the bay at White Rock, noted Langley birder and photographer John Gordon, while good numbers were reported from Drayton Harbour by American birders.
“The overall results for this year’s count were most encouraging,” Gordon said.
”Almost certainly due to the recent very cold weather, some species that are recorded in most years were not found, while other species such as varied thrushes were more abundant than usual.”
The final tally was 113 species which include five rarities: two white-throated sparrows, one Bohemian waxwing, three Townsend’s solitaires, four California scrub jays and a black-crowned night heron.
The five rarities are bird species that usually aren’t seen in this area at this time of year, Gordon noted.
“They’re birds who normally make winter further south.”
He remembers how a yellow-billed loon was spotted in the 2020 Christmas count at Elgin Park and near Blackie Spit Park.
“People came from all over to see – they’re very rare, they’re normally in the Arctic.”
During the Christmas bird count in 2016, a rare Siberian accentor was spotted and attracted birders from all over North America who wanted to see the wayward bird, which is usually found in Southeast Asia and breeds across Siberia.
The count is an early-winter bird census by the National Audubon Society, conducted with the help of more than 70,000 volunteers across Canada, the U.S. and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Christmas bird counts began in 1900, when a group of concerned natural historians felt it was better to count living birds than try to shoot as many as possible in a day.
Information collected by participants over the past century are one of only two large pools of data about how birds of the Americas have been faring over time.
In 1962, the first count was carried out in the Surrey municipality with 17 observers.