Thursday, June 20, 2024
June 20, 2024

‘New’ species tallied in Christmas bird count

Salt Spring Island’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) numbers are in, and with a few surprises, according to organizers. 

The 34th annual event, conducted this year by Nature Salt Spring, was completed on an overcast Sunday, Dec. 18, with temperatures around freezing, “some snow in the air and more on the ground,” according to Tim Marchant, who said a record 191 counters participated in the field and at backyard feeders. 

Marchant said a total of 12,400 specimens representing 96 species were tallied over a combined 228 hours of counting. Comparing this year to the past 10 counts, half had lower and half had higher totals, with generally between 82 and 97 species recorded. 

“The most numerous variety — as it often is — was the dark-eyed junco,” said Marchant, “with 3,221 sightings, up from their average of 1,931.”   

Marchant’s numbers put the American robin in second place at 1,067, fewer than their average of 1,809. The most numerous on the water were Canada geese (560), American widgeon (436) and bufflehead (339). One species barely made an appearance this year — pine siskins, with only 70 sightings compared to 3,452 in 2020 and a 10-year average of 622. 

There was also some good news to share. 

“We recorded the cackling goose for the first time in our 34 years of records,” said Marchant. “They are similar to, and are often seen mingling with, Canada geese. They can be identified by their smaller size.” 

Also, Marchant said after three years of zero or single sightings, counters tallied 14 Eurasian eollared doves this year, which was the highest count since the first sighting of this new-to-our-area bird in 2011. 

“Only one quarter of the 12,400 sightings were ’shore/water birds,’” said Marchant, “while three-quarters were ‘land birds.’  This ratio is usually closer to one third-two thirds. As always, the weather may have affected this.” 

Nature Salt Spring co-chair Kathleen Maser said backyard birders should be on the lookout for the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count running from Feb. 17-20. For information and to participate, visit and

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