Top Six Birds to Watch For
By Gord Gadsden
The following list of birds are of interest for our area for various reasons. They are worth paying special attention to and documenting as well as possible.
Records for this southern jay species have increased of late. This might be an anomaly, but if what has been happening in Washington State below us is any indication, we might have a breeding pair in BC in the next five years.
This species has shown the largest spread and population growth of a non-native species to our area since the days of the European Starling. The impacts of this species are not well understood yet, but regardless of any obvious impacts, these birds need something to eat and space to live in. Further spread should continue to be recorded and any interactions/impacts with/on native species documented.
Even 10 years ago, this species was almost primarily a winter visitor or our area. The last five years or so birds have been noted, in small numbers, during the summer. Breeding seemed inevitable and the last two years had breeding evidence. Wintering numbers also appear to be higher to the west of us where the species used to be an uncommon visitor at best. Will the trend of increasing numbers and breeding continue or prove to be a short abnormality.
Becoming more and more common away from their stronghold in the Victoria area where mild winters supports many birds year round. Abbotsford has seen the most numbers of this bird but more and more sightings have been seen in Chilliwack east to Harrison Mills. Hummingbird feeders being provided 12 months of the year seem the likely cause of their ability to survive the colder conditions of our area. Records of them from Chilliwack eastwards are of special interest.
Breeding in Alaska and wintering in Oregon and northern California is (or was) considered normal patterns for this species recently split from the Canada Goose. Eyebrow-raising numbers of Cackling Geese have been showing up since initially being noticed in larger numbers with a high count of about thirty birds in 2005. Since then, high counts of over 300 in 2007, around 1,500 in 2009 and just under 4,500 in 2011 have been recorded. Flocks are also being noticed in Abbotsford. Apparently, the Vancouver area is not seeing close to these numbers making this more of an Upper Fraer Valley thing. No data that I've read indicates an increase in this species' population so what we're seeing could be a change in wintering ground preference. Continued documentation will be very worthwhile.
An annual migrant that has been increasing in reports over the last few years. Breeding was detected in Harrison this summer and a male spent part of the same summer singing at Island 22 in Chilliwack. Several breeding pairs were reported in Hope with good numbers of singing males documented in areas just to the east of Hope. Several individuals are being reported during migration. It will be interesting if these trends continue in the coming years.