Tag Archives: Barred Owl

The 2023 Christmas Bird Count

The Cortes Island Museum has been sponsoring two birding events every year for the past two decades.* 2,873 birds were seen during the 2023 Christmas Bird Count, but this number would have been much higher if there were more participants. 

“We can only go to a certain number of places where we know there will be birds, and that’s mostly along the coastline,” explained Laurel Bohart, a keen birder as well as co-curator of Wild Cortes.

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The Taxidermist behind Wild Cortes

Laurel Bohart has volunteered her time to mount or prepare the study skins of 100 birds, fish and mammals for the Cortes Island Museum. She is a member of the Board and one of the co-curators of Wild Cortes in the Linnaea Farm Education Centre. Bohart is also a professional taxidermist, whose interest can be traced back to her parent’s missionary years in Nigeria during the mid 1960s.

The first words she used to describe taxidermy were, “It’s fun.”

To which she added, “It’s a form of sculpture when you mount a bird or a mammal. It’s better than a photograph, which is two dimensional. These are three dimensional.”   

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Provincial Biologist visits Cortes Island; Second Western Screech Owl discovered

A provincial biologist visited Cortes Island over the weekend. Emily Upham-Mills is an ecosystems biologist with the Ministry of Water, Lands and Natural Resource Stewardship and an important member of the team working with the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) on the Western Screech Owl Project

Helen Hall, Executive Director of FOCI, explained, “Emily very kindly came up on the weekend to talk to the community. This project is really important for FOCI. We’re doing really interesting scientific work and that data is going back both provincially and federally. It puts us in the spotlight with this particular species. It’s a project that’s running for three years. We’re in the second year of trying to discover whether there are Western Screech Owls on Cortes Island.” 

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Success: The search for Western Screech Owls on Cortes Island

Up until now, there have not been any reports of Western Screech Owls on Cortes Island since 2017. That just changed a few weeks ago in the island’s more remote northern forest. 

Field biologist Sabina Leader Mense reports, “I was sitting in the skiff with my husband Dennis, under an unbelievably brilliant sky of stars. It was the last station of the night, pushing midnight, and in the 16th minute of that 17 minute call playback sequence, I heard something. I remember pivoting around in the boat. The sound was behind me and you do what owls do, you turn around.  I think your ears and the muscles and your ears cup and you’re just straining to hear something. Then I heard the call again. It was very distant, but I recognized it was an owl. I began analyzing the audio disks in my head going, ‘is it a Northern Pygmy Owl? Is it a Northern Saw-Whet Owl?’ As I was doing this, it called the third time and I recognized it was a Western Screech Owl.”  

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Search for the elusive Western Screech Owl

In 2021, the Friends of Cortes Island received funding from the Habitat Stewardship Program to seek out the elusive Western Screech Owls. This research is being guided by the Pacific Megascops Research Alliance, and biologists from the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship are part of the team. The first season was spring 2022. 

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