Merritt Christmas Bird Count – 16th December 2018

Our 2018 Christmas Bird Count took place in pretty good weather – generally calm and not too cold (just below 0C all day). Overall 30 participants were out in the field in seven groups and there was one feeder-watcher (who reported the only Northern Pygmy Owl). This was the 20th CBC done in the Merritt count circle.

In total we recorded 62 species (just above the average of 61 species) and 4,021 birds (above the average of 3641 birds). To see the entire count data click here: Merritt Xmas Count data 1995 to 2018

Group A2 scanning Nicola Lake during the Merritt Christmas Bird Count. The calm conditions made for excellent birding conditions around the lake. Photo: ©Kyla Strange

Highlights of the Count

Four species were recorded that have not been found on previous count days:

  • Greater White-fronted Goose – 1 seen at the old Quilchena yacht club site on Nicola Lake, among a flock of 220 Canada Geese.
  • Northern Shoveler – 6 found on the settling ponds in Collettville.
  • Red-breasted Merganser – 1 on Nicola Lake near Quilchena (this species has been seen in a previous count week but never on a count day)
  • Swamp Sparrow – 1 at the old Nicola Road bordering Nicola Lake near Quilchena

Greater White-fronted Goose (note the orange legs) among the Canada Geese near Quilchena, 16th December 2018. Photo: ©Alan Burger

A female Red-breasted Merganser follows a male Mallard on Nicola Lake, 16 December 2018. Photo: ©Alan Burger

A Swamp Sparrow near Quilchena, 16 December 2018. Photo: Alan Burger

In addition, on the day following the count Wayne Weber reported a Ring-billed Gull – a Count Week species never previously recorded on a Merritt CBC.

Record high counts were made for these species:

  • Black-capped Chickadee – 58 birds (previous high 47, average over 20 years 28 birds)
  • Dark-eyed Junco – 272 birds (previous high 190, average 65 birds)
  • Pine Siskin – 391 birds (previous high 153, average 38 birds)

Pine Siskin – a record high of 391 birds was recorded in the 2018 count. Photo: ©Alan Burger

Other interesting or relatively high counts:

  • Canada Geese – 482 birds (well above the average of 220 birds).
  • Trumpeter Swans – 51 birds (well above the average of 29 birds).
  • Tundra Swans – not seen on the count day but Wayne Weber saw a family of 5 during the Count Week.
  • Double-crested Cormorant – 1 seen during the count week (only the second Merritt CBC record)
  • American Robin – 61 birds (second-highest count in 20 years; average is 24 birds)

A Northern Shrike – always a good bird to see on the Merritt CBC. Photo: © Alan Burger


Big Misses and Low Counts

As usual there were a few species that didn’t show up on the count day or were in exceptionally low numbers:

  • Merlin – not seen on the count day but 1 seen in the count week.
  • Red-tailed Hawks – only 5 seen on count day (average is 15 birds).
  • American Coot – only 24 reported (average is 80 birds).
  • Mourning Dove – not seen on count day for the first time in 20 years (average is 97 birds).
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch – only 2 seen (average is 10 birds)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – not seen (average is 3 birds)
  • Pygmy Nuthatch – not seen on count day but seen in count week (only the second miss in 20 years; average is 16 birds).
  • House Finch – only 38 reported (average is 171 birds)
  • House Sparrow – only 37 birds (average is 74 birds)

Birding at the old yacht club site at Quilchena Point on Nicola Lake. Photo: © Kyla Strange

Pileated Woodpecker – only 2 were seen on the Merritt CBC. Photo: © Carol Madryga.

Post-count roundup

As usual, we wrapped up the day with a post-count dinner – this time at the United Church hall. The various groups’ triumphs and tribulations were shared, along with Brambles Bakery lasagna & salad, and pot-luck appetizers and dessert. A splendid end to a good day out.

Post-count dinner at the United Church hall with excellent food to wrap up the day. Photo: Alan Burger

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