Birders count record numbers

More than 1,000 Anna's hummingbirds counted in annual Christmas Bird Count

It’s a tweet up in the old sense of the word.

Hundreds of Greater Victoria residents have been out tackling the tricky task of tracking authentic tweeters.

The Victoria Christmas Bird Count, held in late December, found both highs and lows in species numbers, but this year nothing rare was spotted.

“We had a new record number of Anna’s hummingbirds,” said Darren Copley president of the Victoria Natural History Society. “There were more than 1,000 counted – previously there were 556. That’s a lot for a species that’s not been here super-long either.”

Copley said it’s amazing that the non-migrating humming bird ended up here and stayed.

Other species seen in high numbers include the northern flicker and pileated woodpecker. “I think it’s a good sign that we still have dead trees around for them,” he said.

Loss of habitat is likely the cause for lower numbers seen in some populations.

“We see trends over the years,” said Copley. “This year we had a high count for the western screech-owl in Victoria – we counted three.”

While that doesn’t sound like a high number, compared to 15 or 20 years ago when 23 were counted, in recent years none have been seen. “That’s likely habitat loss, but there are a few still hanging on,” he said.

Some 30 Merlin, a small falcon, were seen in Goldstream. “They need forest, but clearly they do OK in cities,” said Copley.

The Victoria Bird Count numbers are added to a greater count that goes across the country.

Copley said the number of snowy owls is up in the province, but none were seen here. “Delta had over 40. We had the odd one in Victoria, they’re always a treat for a bird watcher to see.”

One thing Greater Victoria has is diversity.

“We’re usually close to the top in diversity, it’s a competition with Delta on the Lower Mainland. We usually come really close,” said Copley.

“Rare species are not as important. An important part of it is keeping track of the common species to make sure they are doing well, the numbers give us an indication if something is not well.”


Bird watcher’s paradise

Darren Copley, president of the Victoria Natural History Society, recommends wetlands, forests and shrubs for spotting birds.

“Those are places that make good habitat … we see a lot of diversity in the Martindale flats in Central Saanich. That’s where you’ll find the most number of species.”

Being near the ocean adds to the total number of birds we can see locally as well.

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