Jan. 3 was a great day for Langley bird enthusiasts.
On the first Sunday of the year, 25 Langley Field Naturalist and their friends took part in the Surrey/White Rock/Langley Christmas Bird Count.
This area is one of many counts held in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count that has taken place throughout North America every year since 1900.
The local group hit the road at 8 a.m., and organized into five teams to cover the Langley section of their count circle.
The day was very chilly with a temperature of minus-six degrees Celsius, with foggy conditions in the morning foggy and hoarfrost covering the trees.
“Throughout the day we marvelled at the patterns made by the ice crystals on spider webs and the spectacular views of the frosty trees against the blue sky,” related Kathy Masse with the local field naturalists.
Among them, the group walked 54 km and drove 178.7 km to complete their count by 4 p.m.
Despite the weather, Masse said they were “pleasantly surprised” to see the total number of birds increase from last year’s 6,705 to 7,934 this year and the species count increase from 67 to 68.
These include numbers sent in by the Langley Field Naturalists’ three official backyard feeder watchers.
“That is really a good thing,” Masse said, adding, “The other side of it is, there are some regulars we didn’t even record. We didn’t have as many raptors this time because there was not as much prey for them to watch because the ground was frozen.”
The Langley Field Naturalists have been keeping computerized records since 2007 and this year they had two interesting events.
First, they counted record numbers of 17 of the species regularly seen on their count, including dark-eyed juncos, spotted towhees, song sparrows, barn owls, and American wigeon.
They also had five new species never counted before on the Christmas Bird Count in this eight year period (2008’s count was cancelled because of heavy snow): Eurasian collared doves, snow geese, killdeer, marsh wrens, and a red breasted sapsucker.
The Christmas Bird Count is an annual citizen science project for the Langley Field Naturalists that, Masse said, “not only increases knowledge of our resident winter birds but also notes changes in their populations.”