Good year for Christmas bird count

George Clulow and a half dozen other bird watchers counted more than 19,000 birds around Deer Lake and Burnaby Lake during the recent Christmas bird count. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
George Clulow and a half dozen other bird watchers counted more than 19,000 birds around Deer Lake and Burnaby Lake during the recent Christmas bird count.

There's at least one bird that thinks the $20 million it cost to dredge Burnaby Lake was money well spent.

A horned grebe hanging around the lake was the highlight of 64 species of birds spotted by seven birders during the annual Christmas bird count on Dec. 18. Normally grebes winter near salt water, where it's warmer and it can dive for food in the deep ocean. But, says George Clulow, the vice president of the BC Field Ornithologists, the now deeper water of Burnaby Lake, an apparently abundant food supply and mild winter is keeping this grebe put.

Other species are taking advantage of the trend to milder winters as well, says Clulow. His crew of spotters around Burnaby and Deer lakes counted an increase in Anna's hummingbirds, which was first seen in the area in 2008 and now seems to be expanding its usual territory from Northern California.

"The two we recorded this year were not found at garden feeders, but away from houses in Deer Lake Park," says Clulow, who also participated in three other counts around Metro Vancouver which are held in the four week period around Christmas. That "suggests they are now becoming well adapted to winter conditions in Burnaby."

In all the birders counted 19,070 birds comprised of 64 species, six more than the 10-year average of 58. Among them was a great horned owl, seen at the BCIT campus, two common redpolls, a belted kingfisher, a snow goose and a northern shoveler. The northwestern crow was the most ubiquitous with 18,000 of them estimated, followed by 253 Canada geese, 191 black-capped chickadees and 188 mallards.

It was a "great result," says Clulow. "It was a good year weather wise."

But not good enough for some species. The spotters didn't see any pileated woodpeckers, cooper's hawks or house sparrows this year, and the ruddy duck, a common sighting 10 years ago, seems to have vanished altogether; only four have been seen over the past decade.

The results of the Burnaby bird count will be forwarded to Bird Studies Canada, which summarizes counts from across Canada. Those numbers will then be included in a North American database maintained by the Audubon Society that can be accessed by conservationists, land managers or anyone with an interest in learning how their feathered friends are faring.


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