The 11th annual Cortes Island Christmas Bird Count, co-sponsored by the Museum and Bird Studies Canada, had the largest number of participants (39) so far. The 2010 count was actually held on January 2, 2011 which was thankfully a sunny calm day. In the shade the temperatures remained below freezing – so the birders focused on the sunny locations to warm up. Because of the cold, most of the ponds, swamps and small lakes were frozen, making it more challenging to find the birds that normally inhabit these spots in the winter. Nine other individuals watched their feeders and yards and reported their counts as well.
The groups, each with an experienced team leader or two, covered as much territory as possible by splitting the island into five areas. We were not able to do a boat survey this year, but because the day was calm and each group had a scope the near shore areas were fairly well enumerated.
Two Trumpeter Swans were spotted first thing at Smelt Bay. Black Oyster Catchers and Marbled Murrelets were exciting sightings near Hollyhock and Hank’s Beach. Gunflint and Hague Lakes, though they did not have a large number of birds had a few interesting species, including American Coot, Pied-billed Grebes, Green-winged Teal and Ring-necked Ducks. Long-tailed Ducks were again spotted in Cortes Bay. At Squirrel Cove a Yellow-billed Loon was a rare find, and in the Whaletown Lagoon American and Eurasian Wigeons were sited. Of the forest species Barred Owls, Hermit Thrushes, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Red-breasted Nuthatches were in greater abundance than other years. One group chuckled when after searching the shoreline at Manson’s Lagoon without spotting a single Great Blue Heron, they looked up and observed 4 herons sitting in the sun high up in the Douglas Fir trees across the way. Three Anna’s Hummingbirds were surviving the cold weather with the help of feeders. A family of 3 Glaucous-winged - Western Gull hybrids were a challenge to identify. A total of 75 species in all were counted that day, and five additional species (Virginia Rail, Whimbrel, American Dippers, Bewick’s Wren and Cedar Waxwings) were observed during the days preceding the count.
If you would like to view the detailed summary for the 2010 count please visit the website of the Cortes Island Museum & Archives (http://www.cortesmuseum.ca)
Thanks to all the group leaders who shared their knowledge and helped make the day a success. A big thanks to Suzanne for catering a hot lunch so we could thaw out and regroup for the afternoon, and to Lynne & Joe Jordan who kindly offered their home overlooking Manson's Lagoon (a great birding spot) as the warm gathering place.
If you missed the CBC but would like to join in the Museum's spring birding day, watch the flyers or the web-page in early April for details of the event. No previous birding experience is necessary, and it is a great way to have fun and improve your birding skills.