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Ladner Bird Count likely tops again

Local birders identify 144 species (and counting), a total that could help area retain No. 1 spot in Canada

It looks like Ladner may once again finish tops in Canada in the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Co-ordinator Jude Grass told the Optimist the preliminary number for this year's Ladner count is 144 species, with another couple of species requiring verification.

Last year, the Ladner count tied for top spot in Canada with Victoria, both recording 140 species. This year's Victoria count stands at 139 species.

"The weather was not bad on count day. I think most teams were very pleased with what they got," said Grass.

Birders from Ladner, Tsawwassen, and south Richmond took part in this year's count, which took place on Sunday, Dec. 23.

It was part of a larger tally involving many communities over a two-week period by Bird Studies Canada, a non-profit conservation organization. The counts are tabulated in a large-scale western hemisphere count organized by the Audubon Society.

The wide array of birds spotted in the Ladner count, which also encompassed Tsawwassen, Point Roberts and part of Richmond, included many types of waterfowl, such as geese, swans and ducks, as well as raptors, including eagles.

Several types of owls were spotted, including barn owls, great horned owls, barred owls, long and short-eared owls, and northern saw-whets. Noticeably absent was the western screech owl, whose numbers appear to be in decline.

Meanwhile, record numbers of hummingbirds, including the wintering Anna's hummingbird, were spotted, while many woodpeckers were also seen.

One birder specializes in looking for species in the Vancouver Landfill. Those results, which will likely include a large number of bald eagles and gulls, are also expected shortly.

Among the rare birds spotted and confirmed include a Bohemian wax-wing and ruddy turnstone, but some others still need verification. Of course, snowy owls already made news after making another rare appearance in South Delta.

"We have a number of species on our species list that are in italics on our list. That means that the people who saw them know that they have to submit a report because they are not commonly seen. Most of our birders know what they're looking for, but it's sometimes difficult to know for sure," Grass said.

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman suggested an alternative to the holiday "side hunt," in which teams competed to see which could shoot the most small game, including birds. Chapman proposed people count birds instead.

There are now well over 2,000 counts, with more than 400 in Canada.