Surf Scoter observed during Cortes Island Christmas bird count. Image courtesy of George Sirk.

This year’s annual Christmas bird count on Cortes Island was met with cold temperatures and bitter wind. It took place on Dec. 18, with additional individual observations adding to the count on the three days before and after.

Birds with red heads, brown bodies and striped tail feathers sit on a stump eating seeds.

Purple finches observed on Cortes Island. Image courtesy of George Sirk.

Local naturalist guide and birding enthusiast George Sirk says 33 participants were involved and 54 bird species were positively identified. He adds that it was the smallest number of species identified ever, but he believes it was the weather that limited the number of birds observed. 2,427 individuals were recorded, whereas in 2021, that number was 2,963.

The annual event is coordinated by the Cortes Island Museum and Archives Society.  Sirk has been observing birds and keeping records for 40 years and says the Christmas bird count has gained momentum since the museum got involved 21 years ago.

This year, some unusual birds for the region were recorded, such as the Greater Yellowlegs and Northern Shrike, not regularly seen frequenting this part of BC’s west coast.

Sirk goes over the highlights and details of this year’s Christmas bird count on Cortes Island in the interview below with CKTZ News.

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative.