February 15, 2012 · 3:46 PM

How did a bird that usually flies to the Caribbean for the cold months end up in the South Okanagan this winter?

That’s one of the mysteries pondered by participants in the Penticton and Summerland Christmas Bird Count, who counted 99 species and 22,710 individual birds in one day.

A single black-throated blue warbler was seen at the northwest corner of Penticton. The species spends the summer in southern Manitoba and Ontario, and flies to the Caribbean for the winter. It was spotted during the December bird count, and stayed in the area until late January.

Another unusual sighting was noted in the bird count, which was tallied up and released recently. This was a hummingbird from the Pacific Coast.

“One of the things that really stands out is the four Anna’s hummingbirds, two at Summerland and two at Penticton,” said Dick Cannings, national Christmas Bird Count coordinator. He is a naturalist, an author and a resident of Penticton.

“They are common on the South Coast but have not been here for more than 30 years for the count. These are not migratory. They find a feeder and they stay there.”

It was a record year for swans in the count, with 18 trumpeter and 18 tundra swans counted in the Penticton and Summerland area. Cannings said they are more likely to winter further south around Oliver and Osoyoos lakes.

Also further north than usual were the one northern shoveler and one northern pintail. These are dabbler ducks whose shallow marshy habitat freezes earlier than that of the diving ducks, which use deeper water.

One young snow goose was reported at Trout Creek Point.

A Bewick’s wren was seen in the same area of northwest Penticton as the black-throated blue warbler. It wasn’t as far from home, though. Bewick’s wren is a non-migratory bird common on the Pacific Coast. This is the first time it has been seen on the Penticton-Summerland count, but about 10 pairs have been breeding in the area from Vaseaux Lake to Osoyoos.

The chukar, which used to be a regular occupant of the area at the end of Happy Valley Road and around the silt cliffs between Summerland and Sage Mesa, has dwindled in numbers in recent years to the three seen on this count. But Naramata bird counters found some around the Little Tunnel on the Kettle Valley Trail, so they seem to have found a new home.

The number of California quail was lower than usual at 2,180, but the above- freezing weather may have permitted them to stay out of sight in the thickets and continue feeding at more northerly locations, said Cannings.

Numbers of the invasive European starling, which at one time were at 6,000 to 7,000 before dropping dramatically five years ago, climbed back up to 5,223.

“The lack of snow is what really drives this,” said Cannings.

The Christmas bird count was started in 1900 and now is conducted at more than 2,000 locations across Canada, the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. These bird observations have been amassed into a database that reflects the distribution and numbers of winter birds over time. The counts happen any day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.

In the Penticton and Summerland count, 51 observers went out. Their participant fees were paid by Greg and Terry Tellier of Tellier’s Fisherman’s Cove at Osprey Lake.


Counting birds

Here are the names and numbers of bird species which were counted in Penticton and Summerland during the annual Christmas Bird Count:

Snow goose 1

Cackling goose 4 Canada goose 2,294

Trumpeter swan 18

Tundra swan 18

Wood duck 16

Gadwall 20

American wigeon 287

Mallard 1151

Northern shoveler 1

Northern Pintail 1

Redhead 969

Ring-necked duck 6

Greater scaup 1128

Lesser scaup 28

Bufflehead 54

Common goldeneye 38

Barrow’s goldeneye 1

Hooded merganser 11

Common merganser 42

Ruddy duck 1

Chukar 3

Ring-necked pheasant 12

California quail 2,180 (low)

Common loon 24

Pied-billed grebe 10

Horned grebe 96

Red-necked grebe 15

Western grebe 8

Great Blue heron 15

Bald eagle 28

Sharp-shinned hawk 9

Cooper’s hawk 10

Northern goshawk 2

Accipiter sp. 1

Red-tailed hawk 27

Red-tailed (Harlan’s) hawk 1

Rough-legged hawk 1

Golden eagle 3

American kestrel 9

Merlin 8

American coot 1,492

Mew gull 1

Ring-billed gull 208

California gull 50

Herring gull 198

Thayer’s gull 12

Glaucous-winged gull 88

GW X Western gull 6

Glaucous gull 1

gull, sp. 132

Rock pigeon 563

Mourning dove 13

Western screech-owl 2

Great horned owl 20

Barred Owl 1

Northern Saw-whet Owl 1

Belted Kingfisher 11

Anna’s Hummingbird 4

Downy Woodpecker 10

Hairy Woodpecker 8

Red-shafted Flicker 475

Pileated Woodpecker 7

Northern Shrike 1

Steller’s Jay 86

Clark’s Nutcracker 75

Black-billed Magpie 348

American Crow 151

Common Raven 286

Black-capped Chickadee 139

Mountain Chickadee 93

Red-breasted Nuthatch 50

White-breasted Nuthatch 11

Pygmy Nuthatch 187

Brown Creeper 8

Canyon Wren 2

Pacific Wren 2

Bewick’s Wren 1

American Dipper 2

Golden-crowned Kinglet 9

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2

Western Bluebird 54

Townsend’s Solitaire 21

American Robin 45

Varied Thrush 4

European Starling 5,223

Bohemian Waxwing 1 (low)

Cedar Waxwing 54

Yellow-rumped Warbler 5

Black-throated Blue Warbler 1

Spotted Towhee 5

Song Sparrow 243

White-throated Sparrow 1

White-crowned Sparrow 138

Dark-eyed (Ore) Junco 821

Red-winged Blackbird 21

Cassin’s Finch 4

House Finch 1,530

Red Crossbill 13

Common Redpoll 30

Pine Siskin 99

American Goldfinch 293

House Sparrow 806