The Kelowna Christmas Bird Count has been taking place since the mid-1960’s, and on Saturday a hearty group of about 50 birders broke out into 13 teams to spend the day searching and detailing every species of bird they could find within the local ‘count circle’.
This is a 24-kilometre diameter centred at Harvey Avenue and Ellis Street in downtown Kelowna. It stretches north, to the south end of Duck Lake, east to Black Mountain, South to the Chute Lake Road area and west to Gellatly Bay in West Kelowna.
“The highlight of our count this winter appears to have been owls. We saw and heard 30 owls made up of 5 different species,” says Chris Charlesworth, a local member of the group.
“None of these species are particularly rare, but it's unusual to have so many owls cooperate on a Christmas count. The bulk of the 30 owls were Great Horned Owls, which are doing very well in the Central Okanagan area, we counted 19 of them on Saturday.”
Other species of Owl counted on Saturday included the Western Screech-Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl and Barred Owl. Each species was a unique sighting because some are listed as a threatened species while others are known to remain in the deep forest.
“Other surprises included a Vesper Sparrow, two Yellow-rumped Warblers and an Anna's Hummingbird, all species which should have migrated south but have lingered,” notes Charlesworth.
“The hummingbird is residing in a backyard in Rutland where the homeowners are attempting to keep the tiny bird alive through the winter. It's no small feat to safely see these tiny nectar-eating birds alive through the winter and often when we get a real cold snap, they perish.”
Aside from the 50 birders who braved the elements, another 10 people called in their results from watching their feeders. The final count was 108 species, which is eight more than the groups five-year average.