2009 Deep Bay Christmas Bird Count

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor inadequate waterproof clothing or footwear can prevent the dedicated birder from participating in one of the season’s most anticipated events – the annual Audobon’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

A typical place usually only visited during a bird count - a powerline. No birds here, they were smarter than we were and out of the driving rain.
A typical place usually only visited during a bird count - a powerline. No birds here, they were smarter than we were and out of the driving rain.

Here in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island we’re lucky (!?!) to be blessed with four counts within easy driving distance. Today was the the first of the “quad” – the Deep Bay CBC. The day started off at 8:15 a.m. and was just miserable. Snow left over from Tuesday’s snow fall had already turned to slush in most places and the rain was steady and cold. The birds became active once the rain started to ease off. I was thankful that I had a thermos of coffee.

Standing around looking for birds - all part of the fun of Christmas Bird Counts. At least it wasn't raining at this point!
Standing around looking for birds - all part of the fun of Christmas Bird Counts. At least it wasn't raining at this point!

The weather is just one of the many factors that CBCers revel in at the after party potluck and over the course of the day it did improve (marginally). In addition to the social aspect of birdwatching, the main purpose of the CBC is to tally as many individual birds and as many different species as one can over the course of the count day. The data collected gives researchers an idea of changes in bird populations. Each 24km diameter count circle is divided into smaller areas that are covered by a team of birdwatchers.

Ominous clouds roll in at Ship's Point, signalling a return of the rain. This was an excellent location for birds and the place where we spotted our "bird of the day"
Ominous clouds roll in at Ship's Point, signalling a return of the rain. This was an excellent location for birds and the place where we spotted our "bird of the day"

Our group began the day at the Buckley Bay rest area and worked our way down the old Island Highway (19A) to Fanny Bay Oysters. A bird count is a fairly methodical process and teams attempt to cover what is often a large area as best they can. We poked around side roads, checked out the open areas around power lines, and kept our eyes peeled for houses with feeders. Picture two car loads of birdwatchers pulling over at a house with a feeder, a half dozen birders dressed in full rain gear, gumboots, touges and gloves jumping out and focusing their binoculars on the feeder. Often the perplexed home owner is inside looking out the window at the motley group that has assembled in front of his house.

Our merry band of birders making their way along the dyke at Ship's Point.
Our merry band of birders making their way along the dyke at Ship's Point.

Retracing our route back from Fanny Bay we worked the ocean side of our count area as well as checking out excellent birding areas like Fanny Bay Oysters, Mac’s Oysters, and Ship’s Point. I had to leave early due to a family commitment so don’t have a complete list of the birds that our team saw for this post. Our highlight bird was the White-throated Sparrow when I left but it is possible that the team picked up something just as good later on.

Here’s the 47 birds that I was able to get good looks at on the count:

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Gadwall
  • Northern Pintail
  • American Wigeon
  • Eurasian Wigeon
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Greater Scaup
  • Harlequin Duck
  • Surf Scoter
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Bald Eagle
  • Killdeer
  • Black Oystercatcher (30+)
  • Greater Yellowlegs (2)
  • Black Turnstone
  • Thayer’s Gull
  • Western Gull
  • Glaucous-winged Gull
  • Mew Gull
  • Rock Dove
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Common Raven
  • Northwestern Crow
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • American Robin
  • Varied Thrush
  • Spotted Towhee
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Purple Finch
  • House Finch
  • Pine Siskin

I’ll update this post with a complete list of birds for this count when I get it!

Update:

Additional species seen by other team members:

  • White-winged Scoter
  • Long-tailed Duck
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Loon
  • Horned Grebe
  • Red-necked Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pelagic Cormorant (
  • Dunlin
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Hutton’s Vireo
  • European Starling

Total Species Count: 60

There are still plenty of opportunities to participate in CBCs in the Comox Valley. Comox CBC is December 20, Little River Ferry CBC is December 30 and the Campbell River CBC is January 2.

If you want to read more about the history of the Audobon CBC check out Jocie’s post ‘Tis the Season for Christmas Bird Counts.