• Snowy owl in flight. (Photo: Gord Sawyer)

Despite taking place in the coldest recorded winter in some provinces, birdwatchers from Canada braved the weather with others like them from around the world and made the 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count the most successful one to date.

With over 147,000 checklists submitted from participants in over 100 countries, a record 5,090 species of birds were sighted from Feb. 13 to 16, up from about 4,300 in 2014, according to the event website. A release on the website says that the data will be used to “help scientists better understand the impact of the cold on bird populations.”

It also includes a summary about a few select birds. For example, the “charismatic and emblematic” snowy owl was often seen near the Great Lakes states, northeastern U.S., the Atlantic Coast and southern Canada. However, reports of the arctic bird were almost half as frequent as they were in the previous two winters, when record numbers of sightings were reported.

The snowy owl is currently in second place in Canadian Geographic’s National Bird Project, with 5,348 votes. A Saskatoon man’s essay was recently featured as one of the best received so far. It argues that the bird is an “exceptionally patient hunter, and maybe it’s this above all that demonstrates its Canadian-ness,” and compares the snowy owl’s long wait for food to Canada’s for non-violent independence.

Many participants reported sightings of other candidates from the National Bird Project. The dark-eyed junco, which currently has 67 votes on our poll, was the second-most spotted bird. The blue jay, with 466 votes, came in fifth, and the black-capped chickadee, with 1,829 votes, in ninth.

Some birds, while not necessarily reported by the greatest number of people, were spotted by the birdwatchers in the largest numbers. The Canada goose, which sits fourth on our leaderboard with 2,156 votes, was the second-most counted bird. The dark-eyed junco was the eighth-most counted, and the red-winged blackbird, with 135 votes, was the ninth-most.

Other achievements include Ontario’s submission of the greatest number of checklists from Canada with 4,218, and British Columbia’s reporting of the most species with 197.

The next Great Backyard Bird Count takes place next year from Feb. 12 to 15.