In a joint outing, the Merritt NatureKids club and the Nicola Naturalist Society ran the first Merritt Christmas Bird Count for Kids on 8th January 2022. The day turned out to be bitterly cold (-18 C at times) which meant that attendance was lower than expected, and those that did participate had to resort to regular warm-ups in their vehicles.
But we did have a good outing, recorded 27 species and over 2,000 individual birds. The kids had great views of Trumpeter Swans, several duck species, sparrows, eagles, doves, American Dippers plunging into icy streams and much more.
Birds Canada, which coordinates the Christmas Bird Counts in Canada, provides a wonderful aid for identification. On their website if one enters the location and the date the website produces a photo identification sheet showing the most common birds one is likely to see and a tally sheet for recording the sightings. The CBC4Kids website is here.
Our first stop was at the Nicola River just below the Nicola Lake weir. The lake and most of the rivers were frozen over, but here the stream coming out from the lake provided some open water. This attracted a nice selection of waterfowl – 8 Trumpeter Swans, 2 Hooded Mergansers, 5 Buffleheads, 2 Common Goldeneyes, and 11 Barrow’s Goldeneyes.
Just a short way down the road we waded through deep snow in order to find some American Dippers. And we were not disappointed – three Dippers entertained us by plunging into the icy stream to feed underwater, and then leaping back on to the snowy rocks to catch a breath.
Our final stop was the cattle feedlot close by. Hundreds of cows are fed hay and silage and this attracts huge numbers of birds. Close to 2,000 Mallards were among the cows or resting on the snowy river banks. Flocks of sparrows, including Song and White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, searched for seeds among the cattle feed. Rock Pigeons, Mourning Doves and Eurasian Collared-doves swirled around in flocks. The cow morgue attracted two species of eagles and dozens of American Crows and Common Ravens.
After a couple of hours in the cold we were all happy to head home, having seen some beautiful and interesting birds and impressed at their ability to behave so normally during this cold and snowy weather. Here is our final tally for the day: