Here’s a fun thing to do outdoors – while doing your bit for your community, the environment, and science: the Audubon Christmas Birdcount! It takes place across North America, and in many other parts of the world too, during December and January. Port Alberni’s count was yesterday, December 29th. I’ll update this post with the total number of birds seen across the whole Port Alberni count area (by other groups, too) when I get them.
This year, organizer Sandy McRuer was a bit short on volunteers, so he assigned me to a team covering a huge area – from China Creek Marina (where Dave and I do lots of our hikes along the Inlet Trail), as well as several lakes and rivers on the logging roads on the way out there (the aims are to count as many species as you can, so diversity of habitat is good), the beaver ponds on the Rogers Creek trails that Dave and I run, and, well, all of town (including surveying back alleys for bird feeders, going to playing fields around town looking for killdeer, and doingthe whole harbourfront via telescope to look for sea birds).
It was a great day, and I learned a lot – it’s good to go out with other birders. We did not see as many birds as we had expected, as far as total numbers (our group still saw over 700 individual birds) – huge areas of forest and lake seemed really quiet. But we did do really well with the diversity of species, getting a total of 45 types of birds for the day, including some really special ones. One highlight was a red-bellied sapsucker at the China Creek trail parking lot (I have seen these before, but it’s always been a brief glimpse as they flew away. This guy hung around the whole time we were there, drilling holes in a fir tree and sucking the sap).
Other highlights included a Cooper’s Hawk, getting a Virginia rail to answer Stan’s birdcall app from the reeds (we didn’t see it, but if you can hear a bird and are sure it is there, you can still count it), some snipe, a pileated woodpecker, and a bird on the water at the harbour that I am 99% sure was a yellow-billed loon – very uncommon for here.
Whether you are an expert birder or just someone who likes hanging out in the outdoors, this is a great thing to be a part of – a huge birding community event. There is probably an organized count in your town – check out the Audubon site to see.
This picture of a pileatedwoodpecker is not from yesterday, it’s one that Dave took last summer. But we were very excited that we did see a pileated woodpecker yesterday! In fact, we saw every kind of woodpecker that occurs in our area (pileated, hairy, flicker, sapsucker) other than the downy woodpecker. A very good day.