Big birds flock together

Big birds flock together
Darren Handschuh - Jan 17, 2019
Castanet

Birds of a feather are flocking together and they are doing it in the North Okanagan.

The North Okanagan Naturalists Club completed the 39th annual count for swans and 25th annual count for eagles and found there are a lot of the big birds living in the area.

“Substantially more eagles were tallied in the North Okanagan this year than typical of years past. It may have been the single largest tally of eagles that we've ever had, certainly in the past decade anyways. We counted a total of 210 eagles,” said Aaron Deans, terrestrial ecologist. “Thirty per cent of these were immature birds and a majority of all eagles observed were concentrated adjacent to several chicken farm operations in Armstrong and Grindrod. Evidently, these farms have grown in size during the past few years and it appeared the timing of cleaning out offal from the barns coincided well with the count day.”

While more eagles than ever were counted by the observers, the only a few more swans were spotted.

“Lots of open water throughout the region presented swans that were more dispersed than normal. Even the north end of Otter Lake had open water and swans dabbling this year,” said Deans. “We counted a total of 117 trumpeter swans, which is up a little from the past year, but still represented by a relatively low proportion of juveniles with 13 per cent of those observed cygnets.”

The count was done by 22 observers who covered the entire North Okanagan and up to Sicamous.

Annual count reveals increase in number of eagles, swans

Annual count reveals increase in number of eagles, swans in North Okanagan
By Doyle Potenteau Online Journalist Global News
January 17, 2019

Eagles are on the rise in the North Okanagan, according to a recent count of the majestic bird.

Results from the North Okanagan’s annual count for swans and eagles were released this week, and organizers say there was a big uptick in eagle sightings at 210.

“Substantially more eagles were tallied in the North Okanagan this year than typical of years past,” the press release said. “It may have been the single largest tally of eagles that we’ve ever had, certainly in the past decade anyway.”

Of the eagles counted, 208 were bald eagles while two were golden eagles. Further, the majority of those bald eagles, 173, were spotted between Vernon and Sicamous. The two golden eagles were counted between Coldstream and Lumby.

“Thirty per cent of these were immature birds and a majority of all eagles observed were concentrated adjacent to several chicken farm operations in Armstrong and Grindrod,” said the release. “Evidently, these farms have grown in size during the past few years and it appeared the timing of cleaning out offal from the barns coincided well with the count day.”

Regarding swans, 117 trumpeter swans were counted, with 86 tallied between Vernon and Sicamous.

Organizers said due to open, not-yet-frozen-over water throughout the region, the swans were more dispersed than normal.

“Even the north end of Otter Lake had open water and swans dabbling this year,” said the release. “We counted a total of 117 trumpeter swans, which is up a little from the past year, but still represented by a relatively low proportion of juveniles, with 13 per cent of those observed [as] cygnets.”

The count took place on Sunday, January 13th, a calm and mostly overcast day. It was the 39th annual count for swans and the 25th annual count for eagles.

Twenty-two observers took part, covering four areas around Vernon and the North Okanagan. The area breakdowns were Vernon to Sicamous; Coldstream to Lumby to Mabel Lake; Enderby to Kingfisher to Mabel Lake and the greater Vernon area.

Other birds of note that observers spotted included: rough-legged hawk, kestrel, golden eye, great blue heron, ring-necked duck, pileated woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, horned grebe, black-capped chickadee, and northern flicker.

Yes there are more owls

Yes, there are more owls
Josh Winquist - Jan 5, 2019
Castanet

The mild start to winter in the Okanagan has been welcome news to many, including ornithologists.

The numbers of species like American robins and dark-eyed juncos are in the hundreds, according to the North Okanagan Naturalists Club's latest bird count.

Typically, this time of year, bird counts reveal those species are in the dozens.

"It changes depending on the year," explains Rick Bonar, bird count co-ordinator. "We get a few species every year that we get surprised by, but you never know what you're going to find."

Much to the delight of many, there seems to be an increase in the number of owls spotted throughout the region.

"Yes. Short-eared owls seemed to be quite abundant this year," says Bonar. "One of the fellows from the club was out at Swan Lake the other day, and he said he saw nine short-eared owls."

Bonar says the most logical explanation for the increased numbers is the mild winter we have been having.

"Short-eared owls hunt over open grasslands, and if the snow is too deep, then they can't access their small mammal prey. And there is not much snow this year. They are also a species we call a short distance migrant, which means that they only go as far south as they have to to meet their needs," says Bonar.

"That is a species that is often active during the day. Most owl species are pretty much nocturnal, so you're not going to see them."

The short-eared owl is one of two owl species that populate the North Okanagan. The other is the great horned owl.

"Great horned owl is a year-round resident," says Bonar. It breeds right in the city."

As we see more snow accumulate, we will probably see fewer owls.