For 114 years, the Audubon Society has been making a Christmas census of birds, across North and South America, and overseas as well. The goal is to count bird numbers and tally the number of different species once the migration season is over, keeping an eye open for anything that might indicate a species is at risk.
It’s also become a competitive hobby for birders, looking to better every year’s count and find rare species that will attract attention.
In Whistler, the annual count took place on Dec. 20, which is about a week later than usual because of the schedule for other counts in the corridor.
The 2013 count was low, both in terms of overall species and the number of species sighted. Birders counted 1,949 birds in total, representing 34 species. During count week, another six species were also checked off the list.
The average number of birds counted is usually around 2,500, with an average of 41 species sighted. The 2012 count was unusual with just 843 birds counted — the third-lowest in the count’s 22 years — representing 52 species, which was the second-highest in count history.
Some of the unusual findings for 2013 included 247 varied thrush (counters usually only see a few of the birds), a record number of juncos (623), a healthy number of pine siskins (984), a new bird to add to the count list (American kestrel), a white-tailed ptarmigan and one Cooper’s Hawk.
Some of the birds that turned up in lower-than-usual numbers include red-breasted nuthatches (just two spotted) and a handful of chickadees, which are normally more common in counts.
Additional counts were conducted in Pemberton, D’Arcy, Squamish and Britannia. As well, the annual Brackendale Eagle Festival and eagle count took place on Jan. 5.