102 bird species spotted in Penticton Christmas count

A total of 11 sightings of Anna’s Hummingbirds were counted in the annual Penticton Christmas bird count on Dec. 19, 2021. (Shirley Sobkow photo)A total of 11 sightings of Anna’s Hummingbirds were counted in the annual Penticton Christmas bird count on Dec. 19, 2021. (Shirley Sobkow photo)
The wood duck is a common sight in Penticton's waterways but nonetheless it's a gorgeous bird. (Lori Jantz photo)

A total of 102 species were counted in the annual Penticton Christmas bird count held on Dec. 19.

The count is organized by West Kootenay-South Okanagan MP Richard Cannings who took over from his father Steve Cannings who started the event over 60 years ago.

“We had a good day for the count with mild temperatures, no snow and not much wind, so coverage was good and the birds were easily seen. The total of 102 species is above average,” said Cannings.

Some of the highlights were the 11 Anna’s Hummingbirds, well above the previous record of four.

“Unfortunately I think that many of them may not have made it through the recent cold snap—feeders are hard to keep thawed below -20 C. I do know of at least a couple that are still buzzing around now, though,” said Cannings.

Rare species seen include a Great Gray Owl, a Blue Jay (normally found well east of the Okanagan), a Lesser Goldfinch (at the same feeder for the second year in a row; a southwestern U.S. species that is beginning to establish itself as a resident in the south Okanagan), a Harlequin Duck on the Okanagan River and a Hermit Thrush in bush along the Skaha Lake shore (both normally winter on the coast), and Cackling, Snow and Greater White-fronted geese seen with Canada geese in Trout Creek.

Steve Cannings started the count in 1958 and it has happened every year since.

Like all Christmas bird counts across North America, it is undertaken on one day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, in a 12-km radius circle that stays the same from year-to-year. The Penticton count circle takes in Summerland and Naramata.

The Christmas bird count is organized by the National Audubon Society overall and by Birds Canada.

Oliver bird count number way down in -28 C

It was a much different bird count in Oliver on Dec. 28 where the temperature at the top of Vaseux was -28 C.

Beautiful day but bitterly cold (-28 up top) and windy on the Vaseux Lake. Not much lake (or even river) free from ice, said Cannings.

Bird species total was 70 which is the lowest since the great blizzard of ‘96. Highlights include Great Gray Owl, Mountain Bluebird and Peregrine Falcon.

According to the National Audubon Society, data collected by observers during the bird count over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

You can read more details on the history of the count here.

READ MORE: Extreme cold breaks records in Okanagan

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