Intrepid Birders Brave the Elements to Census Winter Birds on Mayne
A rather dramatic headline for this article, but honestly the count day—December 18, 2021—dawned with heavy rains and wind: conditions that are not ideal for birds to be out and about or for birders either. Nonetheless, many of the 48 people (comprising 22 teams) did go out in the morning torrents. Others waited a bit and were rewarded with clear and calm conditions in the mid-afternoon. Kudos to them all as they collectively logged 100 km of trails, roads and shorelines and invested in an aggregate of 62 hours of birding. So despite the conditions, the totals for the 2021 Christmas Bird Count are better than what the counters had expected.
The total number of species tallied for 2021 was 76 which was an improvement over the 73 observed in 2020. As a point of interest, the 33 year average for our Mayne count is 68, so the 2021 species numbers was above our long term average. In terms of the number of individual birds counted, we totaled 4829 which is way down from last year’s 7950 (under better conditions). Even at that, the 33 year average is 4677 and 2021 was just above that average. I should note that 2020 was an irruption year for several species of flocking birds, so the number is high due to just two species. Pine Siskin numbers were just under 1,900 in 2020 while we saw 192 in 2021. Dark-eyed Juncos numbered 1,950 in 2020 and 558 in 2021. One other irruptive species for 2020 was the Red Crossbill of which we counted 100 in 2020 and none in 2021. What a difference a year can make.
Juncos and Loons
As with all the counts, there are a handful of species that represent a significant portion of the count numbers. For 2021, there were six species which represented 47% of the total birds counted. Topping the list was the Dark-eyed Junco (558) followed by Pacific Loon (507), Gull species (357), Chestnut-backed Chickadees (328), Short-billed Gull (formerly Mew Gull) (258) and Canada Goose (246). Other notables include an American Kestrel, a Peregrine Falcon, and Red-winged Blackbird (42).
Three species are in the category of needing more detail because of their rarity in winter here. They are the Brown-headed Cowbird, Barn Swallow and Chipping Sparrow. We had a high count for Eurasian Collared Dove (24 versus 2 in 2020). This species, a recent arrival to Mayne Island, has been spreading throughout North America since its introduction in the Bahamas in the 1980s. This year we had one outstanding Count Week bird, which is a bird seen outside of the count day but within a period of three days before and after the count day. The bird was the Northern Shrike which is rare in this region. This bird is a predator of small birds but not considered a raptor.
As with all years, the Mayne Island count results are aggregated with the counts on Saturna and Pender Islands held on the same day. For Audubon purposes, the four participating islands are considered one count area. The aggregate area totals for 2021 are 88 species and 10,855 birds.
The next birding adventure on Mayne Island will be our 2nd Annual Big Day count on World Migratory Bird Day, May 14, 2022. Put it in your calendars!