Swan, eagle count coming on Sunday

One bird count has flown by this winter and the second is about to come in for a landing.

The annual swan and eagle count is scheduled for Sunday and anyone interested in volunteering for this one-day event is welcome to join the Prince George Naturalist Club in the hunt for these powerful pair of bird species.

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"The annual Swan and Eagle Count is largely carried out by car, and walks are fairly short. As a result, this event always goes ahead whatever the temperature," said club spokesperson Anne Hogan.

The volunteers meet up at the Spruceland Shopping Centre sign early enough to autograph the obligatory waiver, divide up into car pooling teams, and roll out at 9 a.m.

Participants are asked to bring along their own bagged lunch and snowshoes, ensuring they are dressed appropriately for the day's weather.

A gas-share cost of $10 is the fee for coming along.

For more information, email sjkinsey@direct.ca or call 250-963-8381.

The swan and eagle count is a way for the club to take the pulse of the local environment and the results are forwarded to provincial and national databases that track the wider overall numbers.

The same was done in December with birds of all kinds within the City of Prince George.

"We found 48 species and 12,964 birds this year, which is a bit above average," said club spokesperson Cathy Antoniazzi, who compiled the data for this year's Christmas Bird Count held on Dec. 16.

"I looked back and the average for the last 10 years is 46 species (range from 41-55) and 10,000 birds (range from 6,900-14,800)," said Antoniazzi.

"The numbers this year are a bit misleading though. The total includes over 8,000 Bohemian waxwings. Many of the feeder watchers and counters indicated that it was 'very slow' and that there weren't many birds around. In fact, the total for most species was down from last year. It is hard to know if weather was a factor. It might have been too good - not much snow, temperatures above freezing, not much wind, lots of natural food around - so the birds weren't concentrated at feeders."

Among the highlights spotted on the bird count were an American wigeon, an all-time high number (36) of Eurasian collared doves, a gyrfalcon, an array of hawks (two Northern harriers, two red-tailed, and four rough-legged), a northern hawk owl, a barred owl, a blue jay, and a record high 134 bald eagles.

"There were two real surprises," said Antoniazzi.

"A warbler was seen briefly and photographed in College Heights. Unfortunately no one could get a clear enough view to identify it and the photos are dark. I am still hopeful that it will be identified. Yellow-rumped warblers have been seen in December before, but this bird appeared to be more yellow.

"Last but definitely not least, a brown-headed cowbird was also reported. I don't have any details yet, but it would be a first count record."

Antoniazzi added that "what isn't found on a Christmas Bird Count is often more interesting than what is found. There were no pine or evening grosbeaks this year and, despite the large cone crop, only one white-winged crossbill was seen, and no red crossbills."

Rigorously upholding the two annual bird counts maintains a consistent data set, year over year, that helps indicate weather, climate and environmental factors.

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