[Ontbirds] Pickering CBC Dec. 30, 2016

Steve LaForest s.m.laforest at gmail.com
Sun Jan 15 23:18:31 EST 2017

*63rd Pickering Christmas Bird Count December 30, 2016*

Pickering held its 63rd Christmas Bird Count on Friday December 30, 2016.
The count was sponsored by Pickering Naturalists.  A total of 70 species
were counted, somewhat above our 14-year average of 66.4 species per count.
Our highest count for this period was 77 species on Dec. 30, 2012.  The
number of individual birds tallied this year was 19, 915, a slight increase
over our previous CBC.  There were 31 field observers and 6 feeder watchers.

The day started off rather cold at – 3.0 degrees C and cooled off to – 4.3
degrees by 5:00 pm.  It was a windy day, with cold nor-westers blowing at
17 to 28 km/hr, and frigid gusts of up to 45 that froze moustaches and
eyelashes.  Marshes and bays had considerable ice, and creeks were
partially to mostly open.  The ground had several inches of snow cover with
a crust that was (almost) thick enough to support your weight.

We added one new species this year – a Turkey Vulture, soaring over Rouge
Park.  This addition, which was not entirely unexpected, brings our
all-time list of CBC species to 154. A record of 4 White-winged Crossbills
was only our second sighting in the last four decades.

An amazing tally of 1,520 American Robins annihilated the previous record
of a paltry 329 birds from 11 years ago.  This was a big count in a big
season for over-wintering robins.  An informal survey of CBC’s revealed
record-breaking tallies at Sandbanks (8,042), Port Hope / Cobourg (3,409),
Hamilton (2,499), Guelph (1,200), Kingston (1,036), Ottawa / Gatineau
(1,000+) and Rice Lake Plains (786).  Have we reached maximum-thrush?  Will
this influx make American Robins great again?  Only time will tell!

The barbarian hordes of Common Ravens from the northern wilds continued
their invasion, with a new record high of 13 (the previous maximum was 6,
on last year’s CBC.).  Note that the Oshawa CBC reported a new maximum of 8
birds this year, and the Orono CBC had 17.  Another species-on-the-increase
is Red-bellied Woodpecker.  This species set a new high of 16, breaking the
old maximum of 13 set 2 years ago.

Greater Scaup were seen in record numbers, with a tally of 2,743 (exceeding
the former maximum of 2,563 set in 2014).  Shorebirds in winter are always
highly prized, and the 2 Dunlins photographed on Dec. 30th were no
exception.  This was our first CBC record of multiple birds – singles were
previously noted in 1987 and 1988.  Not to be outdone, the lowly European
Starling also flocked to a new record of 3,618 (out-flocking the previous
high of 3,134, set a quarter-century ago).

Canada Geese at 5,853 were down somewhat from the 9,000+ numbers of the
last 2 years.  Other waterfowl of interest included: Hooded Merganser – 4,
our second-highest ever (the maximum was 7 in 2002); Northern Shoveler – 1,
only our 5th record; White-winged Scoter – 6 (our 12th record) and Redhead
– 12 (our 14th record).

As for other waterbirds, both coots and grebes made a splash.  A count of 3
American Coots set a new standard, breaking the previous record of 2 set on
a number of earlier CBC’s.  The sighting of 2 Horned Grebes was the
second-highest record ever, with a previous maximum of 3 in 2011.  This was
only our seventh record for the species.

Aside from the aforementioned vulture, other raptors also made a strong
showing.  Two Merlins represented only our third multiple record, and this
was only the sixth appearance for this falcon on our CBC.  Bald Eagle was
seen for only the 11th time, and the 2 birds constituted only the 4th
record of more than a single individual.

Two Carolina Wrens matched our previous maximum, and this was only the
seventh record for this species.  Other songbirds in good supply included
White-breasted Nuthatch – 77, our highest tally since 1991; White-throated
Sparrow – 31, our highest tally since 1980; and House Sparrow – 311, our
highest tally in the last 9 years.

Four species were seen during count week (but not, obviously, on count
day): Ruddy Duck (only seen once on the CBC, in 2010), Pileated Woodpecker
(seen on 36 CBC’s), Northern Shrike (seen on 52 CBC’s, and virtually annual
since 1960) and Eastern Bluebird (seen on 5 CBC’s, all since 2003).  The
only “miss” that bears mentioning is American Kestrel.  This is the first
CBC that it wasn’t seen (not even during count week) since 1959.

The Pickering count was initiated by Dr. J. Murray Speirs on Jan. 2, 1949,
and has been carried out for 63 years (with an unfortunate lapse of 5 years
from 1995 to 1999).  The count area extends from the shores of Lake Ontario
north to the Oak Ridges moraine.  It is centered at latitude 43.902 degrees
north, and longitude 79.097 degrees west.  The CBC area incorporates the
neighbouring community of Ajax, as well as portions of Lynde Shores
Conservation Area, including part of Cranberry Marsh, in Durham Region.

Many thanks to all of the counters and feeder watchers.  We especially
appreciate the generosity of our hosts for the wrap-up, Jonathan and
Rosemary Oliver – and their remarkable feeding station!  Our dedicated CBC
compiler is Glenda Jones, ably assisted by Dan Shire and Karen
McKillop.  Carolyn
King provided additional research, with data grinching and historical
analysis by yours truly.

In closing, I would like to announce that we will soon celebrate the 40th
anniversary of the Pickering Naturalists.  Everyone is invited to our
anniversary meeting on Thursday March 2, 2017.  I would especially
encourage long-time members and members from the early days of the club to
attend.  Please visit our website at www.pickeringnaturalists.org for more

Sorry for the very late posting.

Steve LaForest

Pickering Naturalists

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