Howling winds which persisted all day were the feature of this Christmas Bird Count. This was the 15th annual CBC in the Merritt count circle. We had 25 participants in the field (close to our record of 26) and three feeder-watchers. Because of the wind our species tally of 57 species was slightly below the average (58) and our count of bird numbers (2,851) was well below our average of 3,324 birds. Despite the wind, it was a fun day which wrapped up with an excellent pot-luck dinner – many thanks to the Shewchuks for hosting that!
Shaw TV made a short video of the 2013 Merritt Christmas Bird Count which is now online. To view the video click here: Shaw TV 2013 Bird Count
No new species were added on the count day, but Snow Buntings were reported for the count week – this species has never been reported in previous counts.
We had some excitement when a small hawk was initially identified as a Cooper’s Hawk (only seen once before on a Merritt CBC) but luckily Carol Madryga had taken a photo of the bird. Expert birders identified this as a Sharp-shinned Hawk – the head cap and back of neck are the same colour as the back and the bird has a very large eye set forward in the head. Cooper’s hawk is larger, has a paler nape and the eye is more central in the head. These two species are always hard to separate.
- Golden Eagles – one group had a close encounter with two eagles at a deer carcass.
- Pacific (Winter) Wren – 4 seen in two areas; only recorded on one previous count. What most of us knew as a Winter Wren has been split into two species, with the birds west of the Rockies now known as Pacific Wrens.
- Canada Goose 469 – previous high 296 birds (last year).
- Hooded Merganser 6 – matches previous high.
- Ruffed Grouse 4 – matches last year’s high.
- Rough-legged Hawk 11 – previous high 10 birds.
- European Starling 329 – second highest count ever; highest was 563 birds.
- Dark-eyed Junco 128 – second highest; last year we had 135 birds.
- American Goldfinch 84 – second highest; last year we had 152 birds.
Missing species and low counts:
- Common Loon – none seen; we usually get this species.
- Scaup – none seen; we usually get both Greater and Lesser Scaup in small numbers.
- American Coot – none seen for the 3rd year in a row; seen on most other counts.
- Hairy Woodpecker – none seen for the first time ever; the average count is 5 birds.
- Red-breasted Nuthatch – only 2 seen; the average is 12 birds.
- White-breasted Nuthatch – none seen; average is 3 birds
- Pygmy Nuthatch – 4 seen; average is 18 birds.
- Townsend’s Solitaire – none seen; this is the first time the species has not been recorded – the average is 8 birds.
Greater Scaup, American Coot and Hairy Woodpecker were all seen on the day after the count (when the winds had abated) so we have them as Count Week species. Other Count Week species were Western Grebe, Great Horned Owl and Snow Buntings.
To download the full list of species seen on Merritt Christmas Bird Counts 1995-2013 click here: Merritt Xmas Count data 1995-2013