Campbell River Christmas Bird Count 2009/10

A full day of birding today on the Campbell River Christmas Bird Count. Fortunately the weather cooperated and while it was cool, the rain held off. My team did fairly well considering that our access to the ocean was only at the mouth of the Oyster River on Vancouver Island, and even at that included only birds south of the center of the river.

Mouth of the Oyster River at mid-tide
Mouth of the Oyster River at mid-tide - we returned to the ocean to try to pick up a few more birds that we had missed earlier in the morning. Plus the inland birding was pretty slow.

We began the day at the Oyster River and scanned the ocean for water birds. It was a bit of a surreal morning as the tide was very high and many of the logs had floated off the beach and were well out into the bay and further out into the Strait. Each log had a line of shorebirds on it: Dunlin, Black Turnstone, and Black-bellied Plover balancing on the gently floating logs. We picked up a number of ducks like Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead but missed common ones like American Wigeon. However, this was offset by finding two Brant on the ocean and an American Coot in the marina.

Much of the morning was spent working through the inland section of our territory which was a long narrow strip bordered by the Oyster River on the north side and the edge of the count circle on the south side. Notable birds in the hinterlands included a trio of Brown Creepers at the Oyster River Enhancement Society’s hatchery, a flock of Red-winged Black Birds at Robinson Lake and a Cooper’s Hawk at the end of Macaulay Road. Over the course of the day Pine Siskins were plentiful and we spend some time looking for Common Redpolls with no success.

Pine Siskin Abstract
We had good numbers of Pine Siskins on the count and spent some time looking up into the Red Alder trying to pull a Common Redpoll out of flocks of up to 100 birds. How many Pine Siskins can you see in this photograph?

We returned to the Oyster River in the early afternoon and the tide had dropped enough that the gravel bars were exposed. It was interesting to see how the birds had changed and we sorted through a small flock of about 100 gulls (there were only a few at high tide) and found about 80 Mew Gulls and just over a dozen Thayer’s Gulls. The remainder were Glaucous-winged Gulls. We also added another shorebird to our list as well – in with a group of over 200 Dunlin was a single Sanderling that stood out like a beacon against all the dark brown shorebirds.

We tried a couple of farms at the end of the day in an attempt to pick up some common birds that we were missing but this late the birds were really quiet. In some ways, this count was unusually for the things we didn’t see: House Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Downy Woodpecker and so on. Many common birds were difficult to find – American Robins were scarce and we only got one Fox Sparrow.

Christmas Bird Count 2009Regardless, by the end of the day we felt that we had done well with a tally of 54 species including:

  • Brant
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Greater Scaup
  • Harlequin Duck
  • Surf Scoter
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Common Loon
  • Horned Grebe
  • Red-necked Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pelagic Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Bald Eagle
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Merlin
  • American Coot
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Black Turnstone
  • Dunlin
  • Sanderling
  • Mew Gull
  • Thayer’s Gull
  • Glaucous-winged Gull
  • Pigeon Guillemot
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Northwestern Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Winter Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • American Robin
  • Varied Thrush
  • European Starling
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Juncos
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • House Finch
  • Red Crossbill
  • Pine Siskin

Added by neighbouring team to bring the count total to 56 species were:

  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Bonaparte’s Gull