(Above) Dave Saunders, left, and Jack Cunningham cover their territory on Captiva in the annual Christmas Bird County. (Right) An Osprey on Captiva poses for the bird count. This year's count found 463 Osprey. SC photos by David Rohn
(Above) Dave Saunders, left, and Jack Cunningham cover their territory on Captiva in the annual Christmas Bird County. (Right) An Osprey on Captiva poses for the bird count. This year's count found 463 Osprey. SC photos by David Rohn

The San-Cap Audubon Society cracked the century mark Saturday on the annual Christmas Bird Count.

A small army of 148 birdwatchers were greeted by perfect conditions Saturday as they combed Sanibel and Captiva for any bird that was flying, sitting, swimming, eating or, considering it was Count Day, posing. The final count was 17,566 birds spread across 105 different species.

All those numbers are up from last year and a little above average over the long term,” said Bill Jacobson, count compiler for the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society.

Jacobson has been compiling the count for 15 years and has access to 30 years of data. Over that period the count has averaged 101 species. But, it's not a given. Last year 136 birders saw 99 species and just 10,935 individuals, a number substantially below the 30-year average of just above 16,000. Windy conditions greeted the count in 2015 and it managed only 88 species.

You just never know what will be seen on the count. This year we had a lot of White Ibis, particularly at 'Ding' Darling,” Jacobson said. “One person who was there told me there were White Ibis as far as they could see. There were so many they couldn't count anymore.”

The White Ibis count this year is a whopping 3,700.

Other birds that are routinely watched yielded promising results. San-Cap Audubon is always in contention for seeing the most Ospreys, thanks to the local program that caters to that majestic fish-eating bird of prey. This year's total of 463 is up from last year's 417 Osprey.

Also healthy is the fragile Snowy Plover. Saturday's count registered 12 Snowy Plovers, which indicates a stable population in that species. Nine were seen last year and 10 in 2015.

Jacobson and his team of workers manned the bird count headquarters at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Nature Center.

It's always interesting to see what turns up. Each year is different. This year the shorebird numbers were down a bit but the gull numbers were up. We had 1,800 Laughing Gulls and that's a lot,” Jacobson said.

Helping staff bird count HQ at SCCF are, from left, Charles Ewell, Bill Jacobson, Karl Werner, Malcolm Harpham and Phyllis Gresham. Photo by Hugh Verry