The colourful Pine Grosbeak should be in attendance on Dec. 20

The colourful Pine Grosbeak should be in attendance on Dec. 20

Anything is possible on Count Day

Birdwatching with the Rocky Mountain Naturalists — Cranbrook's annual Christmas Bird Count set for Dec. 20.

Daryl Calder

On Saturday, Dec. 20, many birders, young and old, will spend the day outdoors searching for wild birds in the Cranbrook area.

We will meet at the West entrance visitor area beside Elizabeth Lake at 8:45, form groups and cover as much area as possible within our count area quadrants. Four-door vehicles with clean windows are best, to move each team safely and efficiently. Whenever it is safe to pull over to the side of the road, we hop out quietly, listening and looking. Sometimes, one or more team members will walk ahead across a field or along a path, to be picked up a few minutes later.

Our day promises to be mild, calm and dry.

Thinking back to previous counts, conditions which are uncomfortable for humans are not necessarily bad for birds. Fogged windows are a nuisance to us, but strong, warm winds cause birds to disappear as they seek shelter.

The experienced team members will be checking all the “hot spots” they can think of. Patches of open water, grasslands, forest edges, bird feeders and the shopping cart corrals at Superstore are sure to produce.

If a particular group was well organized and adventurous, a traverse of the Community Forest, or other longer distance on foot would likely yield useful results.

Last Sunday, I was fortunate to join the gang from the Elk Valley and Crowsnest Pass for the Fernie CBC. Birding was good for us and the birds. However, because there was so much open water in the Elk River, the river ducks were not concentrated in their usual hot spots.

On a quiet back road, with the window rolled down, I stopped whenever chickadees were heard. This is a good strategy because other quieter birds form mixed flocks with the noisy chickadees. Not only that, all four types of chickadees may be observed. In one way, noisy, heavy trains were annoying. But, by focussing the binoculars at an oncoming train in the distance, I was fortunate to record several species as they were flushed from thickets and ditches.

Fernie birders were relieved that many of the winter finches have returned following their dramatic disappearance last year. One of the larger members of it’s family, the Pine Grosbeak is a bird of the boreal forests. A large, unwary finch, it makes periodic winter irruptions into southern Canada and northern US. It is the largest and rarest of the ‘winter finches’. With his pinkish-red head, breast, back and rump, the male is a handsome fellow, while the golden yellow of the female also adds a splash of colour to a winter scene.

The tameness and slow-moving behaviour of the Pine Grosbeak gave rise to the local name ‘mope’ in Newfoundland. Winter flocks may stay near a tree with abundant fruit until all of it is consumed. A breeding adult bird develops pouches in the floor of it’s mouth for carrying food to it’s young. During most of the year, 99 per cent of it’s diet is vegetable matter, especially buds, seeds and fruits of spruce, pine, juniper, elm, maple, mountain ash, apple and crabapple. It feeds insects and spiders to it’s young, though, often mixed with plant foods. It drinks water or eats snow daily. This finches’ conservation status is largely unknown because of the difficulty when assessing populations. On Saturday, it will be a treat to observe these fine birds.

Birds we should see on count day near Cranbrook.

Loons, Grebes, Herons, Geese, Mallards, Goldeneye, Mergansers, Eagles, Hawks, Grouse, Killdeer, Snipe, Rock Doves, Owls, Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, Flickers, Jays, Nutcrackers, Magpies, Crows, Ravens, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Creepers, Wrens, Dippers, Kinglets, Solitaires, Robins, Waxwings, Shrikes, Starlings, Sparrows, Juncos, Blackbirds, Grosbeaks, Crossbills, Redpolls, Siskins.

For those birders who wish to participate as a feeder watcher, please contact me and submit your results after 5 PM. At that time, field birders will meet for a potluck and count up. Best of luck to everyone for a fine day.

Submitted by Daryl Calder, 250-489-1601 on behalf of Rocky Mountain Naturalists

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Supporters — and shoppers — lined up waiting at the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South, waiting for the doors to open on the store's first day of operations since the pandemic forced its closure. (Photo courtesy Kate Fox)
CHCA Thrift Store re-opens in Cranbrook

After a closure of 15 months, due to the pandemic, the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South has once again opened its doors for business.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read