Gabriola contributes unique species to Nanaimo Christmas Bird Count

Jeff Rietkerk

Island Arborist

Monday, January 5 2015

This year was the 115th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), when volunteers survey bird populations across North America, Mexico and parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Roughly the northern “half” of Gabriola Island is included in the Greater Nanaimo area, and twenty-four local volunteers came out on December 28 with binoculars, notebooks and pencils ready to survey specific quadrants of the island. 

Experienced birders use visual markings, flight patterns and bird calls to accurately identify and record bird species and numbers. Records are used to illustrate changes in bird populations, and the Count itself is often how people become interested in and learn about birds and become involved in wildlife conservation.

Although some areas went without being surveyed, 76 species were still seen during the count, with a total of 2963 individual birds counted. In comparison, 74 species and 3326 individuals were seen last year. The Nanaimo Count as a whole had an unofficial total of 111 species, with Gabriola having the only sightings of Yellow-billed Loon and Pine Grosbeak. The most numerous species seen was the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, with 439 birds, followed by Black Scoters with 400, and Golden-crowned Kinglets with 319. Interestingly, 46 Bald Eagles were seen, along with 28 Anna’s Hummingbirds. This list is of course not inclusive of all the birds within the survey area, but only the birds seen while surveying for the Count. It is encouraging to know that many more species have been seen on Gabriola and make the island their home at different times of the year. Only three Barred Owls were seen on the Count and as many residents know, there are plenty more than that living here!

Thank you to all who participated this year in this important annual survey. 

The youngest birding volunteers on the island were aged seven and nine (thanks Mya and Sydney Diggon), followed closely by 12-year-old Thor Zupanec, who was on his fifth CBC. 

The world needs more birders, so stay tuned for birding hikes and park visits on Gabriola, and visit the local bird hangouts in your neighbourhood to see who shares the island with us.