Winter Bay Birds
Many of the seabirds seen around Bowen during winter months breed in BC’s interior and the far north and then migrate when northern lakes freeze over to south coast wintering grounds.
Looking out over Kwilákm’s shoreline and water through the cold months, a keen observer can watch lots of easy-to- see marine birds: ducks, loons, grebes, herons, and geese, all going about their daily business. Ben Keen, ardent Bowen birder, is a big fan of birding here: “You can get closer to the birds in Kwilákm than anywhere else on the island. Even non-birders without binoculars love this location.”
During winter storms, Kwilákm offers protection from wild wind and big waves. This is a fine spot to be a winter seabird.
Seabirds move about in search of food, The numbers change seasonally and daily. At any time, they might not be in Kwilákm, but they are likely not far away. Because Howe Sound regularly attracts good numbers of many different kinds of seabirds, Birdlife International, a world leader in bird conservation, declared the Sound south of Anvil Island an Important Bird Area for its importance to three species at a global level: Barrow’s goldeneye, surf scoter, and western grebe.
Scoters and goldeneyes are attracted to Deep Bay’s shores to feast on the abundant blue mussels in the intertidal and subtidal zones. Western grebes are here to chase schools of small fish.
How are the birds who migrate to overwinter in the Salish Sea faring? Twenty years of citizen science data, collected by the British Columbia Coastal Waterbird Survey, has examined trends for over 50 species in the Salish Sea and the Pacific Coast. Results suggest that most species’ populations are stable, though downward trends were observed for surf scoter, western grebe, and common loons, while populations of harlequin ducks and glaucous-winged gulls increased. Bird population numbers have become important indicators of both environmental success and environmental stress. The Lower Howe Sound Christmas Bird Count covers almost all islands at the mouth of the Sound, including Bowen. The Christmas count is an opportunity for everyone to get involved and provides valuable long-term data about the state of local birds.
To find out more go to the Bowen Nature Club Website: https://bowennatureclub.blogspot.com