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Volunteers turn out for Christmas Bird Count

Bird counters were out by the dozens to spy on their feathered friends on Dec. 30.

Numbers are not finalized, but organizers of the annual Nanaimo Christmas Bird Count expect to end up with a count of around 118 species spotted in the Harbour City, from Cedar in the south to Icarus Point in the north.

Last year, volunteers identified 119 different species, up from the 113 spotted two years ago.

"It's about normal," said Ryan Cathers, bird count compiler. "We had beautiful weather. It was sunny, the wind was calm, which was great for ocean viewing."

This year saw a huge increase in field volunteers – about 100 came out this year compared with 24 last year, which Cathers attributes to his efforts in getting people new to birding involved by teaming them up with longtime birders.

"It's a huge increase," he said. "It made the day a lot smoother."

While no snowy owls, which made an appearance in Nanaimo recently, were seen, volunteers spied a few species that are a little unusual for the Island, said Cathers.

Two common redpolls were spotted at Buttertubs Marsh – counters recorded this species last year as well, but before that, it had been a number of years since any were seen on count day – and also of note is a large number of greater white-fronted geese – about 50 were spotted, which is a higher number than previous years, he said.

On Gabriola Island, a mourning dove was spotted, which has not made an appearance on count day for several years, and volunteers also spied two red-throated loons along the coast in the north end, said Cathers.

"They're something you have to really look for, they're few and far between," he said.

Numbers of red-breasted nuthatches are on the decline in the Harbour City and have been for the last few years and there were also fewer golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets spotted, said Cathers.

The count dates back more than 40 years in the Harbour City and more than 100 years across North America and is the longest running citizen survey in the world.

"It provides us with really great long-term data on what is going on with birds," said Cathers, adding that counts take place all over North America every winter.

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