More East Kootenay birds

Results of the Kimberley bird count, January 4, 2014.

  • Jan. 13, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Pygmy nuthatch

Daryl Calder

January ought to be a time to stay indoors, but for birders, it is one of the most exciting times of the year. While the rest of the world is trying to give up smoking or working out in temporarily crowded gyms, birders are out in the field building their brand new, year- lists while taking part in a Christmas Bird Count.

On January 4, about a dozen birders from our corner of the province gathered in Kimberley, formed teams and fanned out into an area from Wasa to Wycliffe.

The species count of 39 equalled the Cranbrook result from the previous week.

As usual, most bird activity centered around the bird feeders which had been cleaned, filled, and placed out of harm’s way by our generous bird-loving backyard watchers in Kimberley, Marysville, Meadowbrook, Ta Ta Creek, Wasa and Wycliffe.

Dianne’s team was pleased to discover a Brown Creeper silhouetted on a tree trunk along 301 Street and what could only have been a Merlin at the South end of Swan Subdivision. When birding, it always helps to be in the right place at the right time. A brief glimpse provided enough good evidence for a positive identification. The pointy wing tips, general greyish color, size, habitat, and time of year, could mean only one thing. The speedy Merlin lives year round in our area; several pairs make their home around the edges of town. Closely related to the more widely known Peregrine Falcon, Merlins raise their chicks on insects, small mammals and other birds.

Another highlight for our area is the continued presence of a family of Pygmy Nuthatch in Wycliffe. Small, even by nuthatch standards, Pygmy Nuthatches are tiny bundles of hyperactive energy that climb up and down Ponderosa Pines giving rubber-ducky calls to their flock mates. Their buffy-white underparts set off a crisp brown head, slate grey back, and sharp, straight bill.

These tiny songbirds breed in large, extended-family groups, which is one reason why you’ll often see a half dozen at a time. Look for them in open forests of older Ponderosa Pine across the West. Unlike the other nuthatches which go head first down a tree trunk and make a ‘yank, yank’ call, the Pygmy prefers to forage for seeds and insects further out along branches and needle clumps. It is very quiet and it’s call consists of simple little peeps. Rarely spending much time at the feeder, it zips in to grab something and scoots back to a nearby large tree to eat or stash.

The Kimberley Count always shows differences from the Cranbrook tally. The Wasa, Ta Ta Creek and Bummer’s Flats are quite unlike the habitats found around Cranbrook. Birders were pleased to find Wild Turkey, Red-tailed Hawk, Eurasian Collared Dove, Black-billed Magpie, American Tree Sparrow, and Snow Bunting while the Crossbills and Redpolls ‘should’ have been seen in Cranbrook. The more southerly town produced a greater variety of waterfowl, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-winged Blackbirds and Pygmy Owl.

The List:

Mallard 9

Common Goldeneye 42

Wild Turkey 4

Bald Eagle 12

Red-tailed Hawk 1

Merlin 1

Rock Pigeon 69

Eurasian Collared Dove 17

Downy Woodpecker 16

Hairy Woodpecker 4

Northern Flicker 24

Pileated Woodpecker 2

Woodpecker species 1

Northern Shrike 2

Grey Jay 4

Steller’s Jay 7

Blue Jay 6

Clark’s Nutcracker 31

American Crow 24

Common Raven 78

Black-billed Magpie 14

Bl.-capped Chickadee 105

Mountain Chickadee 130

Chickadee species 10

Red-breasted Nuthatch 10

White-breasted Nuthatch 2

Pygmy Nuthatch 3

Brown Creeper 1

American Dipper 2

Townsend’s Solitaire 1

American Robin 1

Bohemian Waxwing 569

American Tree Sparrow 10

Song Sparrow 11

Dark-eyed Junco 4

Snow Bunting 25

House Finch 37

Red Crossbill 2

Common Redpoll 25

Evening Grosbeak 7

House Sparrow 6

Total Number of Individual Birds 1,329

Total Number of Species 39

Thank you, Dianne Cooper, and all the field and feeder counters.

Submitted by Daryl Calder on behalf of Rocky Mountain Naturalists

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