Christmas Birding

Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)
The Christmas raspberry-red of the Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) makes it a perfect bird for the season.

If you’ve never done a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) you still have time to experience the “fun” of a full day of birding in the middle of winter. On Vancouver Island in British Columbia this usually means a cold wet day spent in all weather rain gear drinking coffee out of a Thermos. There is a competitive side to the CBC but quite honestly, if it is pouring rain I’m not serious enough to power through without a warm lunch break in a cafe.

This weekend I did the Comox CBC, a 24 km diameter count circle based on a center point of the Comox post office. We started in pouring rain at around 8:30 after spending 30 minutes in a Tim Horton’s drinking coffee and planning the day (and hoping for the rain to ease off). By the time we got to our first stop the rain was down to a cold drizzle and though it was cool and windy for the rest of the day, it was relatively dry.

Our area had a mix of rural farmland, suburbs, second growth forest and a small stretch of gravel beach waterfront. We focused on the suburbs and fields in the early morning in an attempt to get as many land birds as possible before moving to beach access points and scoping for waterbirds in the late morning and afternoon.

Overall, it was a fairly productive day. Highlight birds included two barred owls calling back and forth, a Lincoln’s sparrow, an orange-crowned warbler, and a quick glimpse at an Anna’s hummingbird (a Vancouver Island/lower mainland BC winter specialty). Noticeable were the large numbers of dark-eyed juncos and the very low numbers of finches – we had no house finches and only one purple finch in our area. Northwestern crows were also few and far between – only two over the course of the day.

There’s still lots of time to find a count in your area and join in. You don’t have to be an experience birder, just having an interest in birds and a willingness to learn more about the birds that can be found in your own part of the woods. Check the Audubon website to find a Christmas Bird Count near you, grab some all weather gear and get ready for a full day of fun!

I’ve posted some links for Vancouver Island CBCs at Christmas Bird Counts 2010/11 – Vancouver Island, BC and I’ve just found out that the Nanaimo CBC is on December 29th so I’m thinking that I’ll be able to squeeze that one in this year as well. It’s a great way to spend the Christmas holiday!

Here’s our list for our area of the Comox CBC:

  • Common Loon
  • Red-necked Grebe
  • Horned Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pelagic Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Mallard
  • Greater Scaup
  • Harlequin Duck
  • Long-tailed Duck
  • Surf Scoter
  • Black Scoter
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Bald Eagle
  • Glaucous-winged Gull
  • Western Gull
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Barred Owl
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Northwestern Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • Pacific Wren (formerly Winter Wren)
  • Varied Thrush
  • American Robin
  • European Starling
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Song Sparrow
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Pine Siskin
  • Anna’s Hummingbird