A total of 100 counts came in from British Columbia this year, the same as last year’s record high. New counts came in from Armstrong-Enderby, Harrop-Balfour, Stuix-Tweedsmuir, and Wells-Bowron. The species total for BC—232—was also the same as last year’s number. Ladner and Victoria did their usual dance of trading places at the top of the species count; this year it was Ladner’s turn with 143 species, while Victoria dealt with high winds and slipped to 140 species. Oliver-Osoyoos was again tops for Interior counts with 110 species.
A healthy total of 376 Greater White-fronted Geese was reported, most of them from Vancouver Island (including 158 at Sooke and 111 at Victoria). The Brant total rose to 5376, almost all of them (4800) at Ladner, and the Trumpeter Swan total was up to 7627 with the usual concentrations in the Fraser Valley (where Harrison River had 1461) and Vancouver Island. Ladner reported three Cinnamon Teal, while Oliver-Osoyoos had one during count week. Single Eurasian Green-winged Teal were at Victoria and Greater Masset. Vancouver tallied an impressive 10,919 Surf Scoters, about a third of the provincial total, and goldeneye number were up as well, particularly Bufflehead (the “little goldeneye”), propelled by good numbers at Sidney-South Saltspring (2658) and other locations on southern Vancouver Island.
Chukar numbers were at even higher levels this year than last, with 401 seen on seven counts, 128 of them at Lillooet. Oliver-Osoyoos had the only Gray Partridge (10) for the second year in a row. White-tailed Ptarmigan are notoriously hard to find in winter, so a single bird photographed at Apex-Hedley was exciting (and a big relief after more than a decade of looking on this count!). Sharp-tailed Grouse are highly localized in BC, so reports from Dawson Creek (10) and Soda Creek (5) were welcome. Wild Turkeys continued their increase, with 616 reported (228 at Creston).
Only three Yellow-billed Loons were reported this year: two at Skidegate Inlet and one at Lasqueti Island. Hecate Strait produced the only tubenoses: four Northern Fulmars and two Short-tailed Shearwaters. A Great Egret at Ladner and single Green Herons at Vancouver and Pitt Meadows were noteworthy. Bald Eagle numbers dropped slightly to a total of 7454, with Squamish reporting 1172. Cooper’s Hawks, on the other hand, increased to 342, with Victoria topping the list with 38 seen.
A Franklin’s Gull photographed at Abbotsford-Mission was only the fourth ever seen on a Canadian count. Amazingly, Thick-billed Murres were seen on three counts, with six at Hecate Strait and singles at Skidegate Inlet and Sooke. The same three counts came up with good totals of Cassin’s Auklets, with 39, 17 and nine respectively. The Eurasian Collared-Dove expansion saga continues, with 5241 seen on 70 counts, up from 4006 on 67 counts last year.
Eight Western Screech-Owls (a Threatened species) were reported, including three in Penticton and two in Kelowna, but the encouraging news was reports of two at Victoria and one on Pender Islands—the species has all but vanished from the south coast. Snowy Owls were essentially absent from the west coast this year; the only BC report was a single bird in Dawson Creek. It was a decent year for Northern Pygmy-Owls with 111 seen on 41 counts, including nine at Bridesville. Anna’s Hummingbirds were down in numbers at the core of their BC population in Victoria (761 this year versus 972 last year) but up slightly overall with and 2795 seen, including three at Kitimat. The only interior Anna’s was a single bird at Lake Country. Two Rufous Hummingbirds at Pender Islands were notable.
The Steller’s Jay total of 5260 was about double recent numbers, with the high count at Victoria (493). Western Scrub-Jays were seen at Ladner (2) and Pitt Meadows (1). A Barn Swallow at Victoria was the first one reported on BC CBCs in three years, but fits a recent trend of scattered winter visitors. Three single Mountain Bluebirds brightened the day at Comox, Salmon Arm, and Vaseux Lake. A Gray Catbird at Kelowna was notable, and Castlegar had one for count week.
Penticton tallied impressive numbers of the two flocking fruit-eaters: European Starling (11,898) and Bohemian Waxwing (7849). The only unusual warbler was Palm, with two at Ladner and one at Skidegate Inlet. Parksville-Qualicum had a Yellow Warbler for count week. A Chipping Sparrow, rare anywhere in BC in winter, was a real surprise on the Peachland count. White-throated Sparrows appeared in remarkable numbers, with 41 seen on 15 counts, including 10 at Victoria alone. Single Harris’s Sparrows were at Abbotsford-Mission, Ladner, and Nakusp. An Indigo Bunting at Skidegate Inlet was a good nominee for bird of the year on BC counts, while a Bullock’s Oriole at Vancouver was also somewhat out of place.
Pine Grosbeaks bounced back after last years lows, with 2184 seen (129 last year) as did Pine Siskins, with 20,746 versus 5427 last year. Red Crossbill numbers were more than double those of last year, thanks to good counts from southern Vancouver Island. White-winged Crossbills, on the other hand, were only seen on one count, and it was a strange place for them—Greater Masset. Common Redpolls and Evening Grosbeaks were up slightly, but not in dramatic fashion; only 10 Hoary Redpolls were tallied (6 at Elkford and 4 at Dawson Creek).