Vernon Christmas bird count numbers down

iN PHOTOS: Vernon Christmas bird count numbers down this year
Sean Mott , InfoTel News

VERNON - The bird is the word.

More than 80 bird watchers filled the Bishop Bird Sanctuary on Dec. 16 for the 69th annual Vernon Christmas Bird Count. Participants counted 92 species and 24,000 birds, down slightly from their count last year of 93 species and 25,290 bird.

In a press release, the North Okanagan Naturalists Club said nearly 2,000 absent mallards were the main cause for the different numbers. The European starling, Canada goose, and mallard were the top three most abundant species observed at the event.

As always with bird counts, every watcher wants to find that rare and elusive bird. Marilyn Buhler snagged that recognition this year, spotting the Say's phoebe, which is believed to be the last of its species in Canada. Buhler also recorded the rare golden-crowned sparrow. Voters were split on these two creatures for the "best bird" trophy, but either way, Buhler was the winner.

Watchers kept their eyes peeled for the Clark's nutcracker, American dipper, and brown creeper, but these birds remained out of sight this year.

Other highlights included:

  • A major increase in American robins from 54 last year to 763 this year. The press release attributed this increase to mild weather and an abundance of berries.
  • The population of the introduced Eurasian collard-doves continues to rise.
  • A rare swamp sparrow was spotted.

Results of the bird count will be submitted into an official record to become part of North America's longest-running citizen science program.