An American Dipper looks for bugs under leaves along the shore of Stuart Lake.

An American Dipper looks for bugs under leaves along the shore of Stuart Lake.

Grand slam bird count

It was a memorable year for the annual Christmas Bird Count in Fort St. James.

It was a memorable year for the annual Christmas Bird Count in Fort St. James.

Organizer Joanne Vinnedge called it a “record-breaking day,” with warmer temperatures and some landmark sightings.

Fourty-three species were positively identified, more than have ever been picked up in Fort St. James, with high years normally being around 30 or 33 species, according to Vinnedge.

This year’s count was a bit earlier than usual in the Fort, with the count taking place on Dec. 15, the first day of the North and Central America-wide bird count.

Vinnedge herself along with a couple other birders, including photographer Dexter Hodder, saw a “Chickadee Grand Slam” which is seeing all four species of chickadee in one place at one time.

The birds were sighted at Sandra Okano’s bird feeder on Stone’s Bay Road. While three species of chickadee are more common in the area, the Chesnut-backed Chickadee is usually a more coastal species, and so seeing all four together is rare.

Vinnedge called it “the highlight of multiple years of birding” and said other top birders she spoke to afterwards were expressing their amazement at the sighting.

Another highlight was when Vinnedge and Hodder watched a dipper working along the shoreline on Stone’s Bay, methodically flipping over aspen and cottonwood leaves looking for bugs. “It was very cool,” said Vinnedge, describing the bobbing little avian.

Her one disappointment was no one on the count spotted a Eurasian Collared Dove, but she said it was still a great day for birding in Fort St.

Species Results:

Species Number

Trumpeter swan 70

Mallard 37

Lesser scaup 1

Bufflehead 4

Common goldeneye 37

Barrow’s goldeneye 1

Common merganser 5

Ruffed grouse 8

Spruce grouse 2

Bald eagle 4

Northern goshawk 2

Red-tailed hawk 1

Snowy owl 1

Northern hawk-owl 5

Downy woodpecker 28

Hairy woodpecker 36

American three-toed

woodpecker  1

Brown creeper 5

Northern flicker 9

Pileated woodpecker 6

Woodpecker (unknown) 1

Northern shrike 4

Gray jay 16

Black-billed magpie 19

American crow 27

Common raven 143

Black-capped chickadee 367

Mountain chickadee 9

Chestnut-backed

chickadee 4

Boreal chickadee 2

Red-breasted nuthatch  14

White-breasted nuthatch  1

American dipper 2

American robin 1

European starling 1

Bohemian waxwing 78

Song sparrow 1

Dark-eyed junco 4

American tree sparrow 1

Red-winged blackbird CW

Pine grosbeak 327

Common redpoll 505

Pine siskin 32

Evening grosbeak 116

House sparrow 32

Total number of Birds 1934

Total number of Species 44