[Ontbirds] Pickering Christmas Bird Count - Dec. 30, 2017

Steve LaForest s.m.laforest at gmail.com
Sat Jan 20 00:09:10 EST 2018

*64th Pickering CBC – December 30, 2017*

Pickering held its 64th Christmas Bird Count on Saturday December 30,
2017.  The count was sponsored by Pickering Naturalists.  A total of 65 species
were counted, somewhat below our 15-year average of 66.3 species per count.
Our highest count for this period was 77 species in 2012.  The number of
individual birds tallied this year was 15, 757, a decrease of 21% from our
previous CBC.  There were 35 field observers and 6 feeder watchers.

Count day started off very cold at – 14 degrees C, with a wind chill of –
17.  It warmed up to a balmy – 7.5 (wind chill – 13) by 3:00 pm, then
dropped again to – 11 (wind chill – 19) at 5:00 pm.  Conditions were calm
at daybreak but winds from the north and west increased throughout the day,
reaching 8 km/hr at 11:00 am and a brutal maximum of 28 gusting to 43 by
4:00 pm.  We had bright overcast skies for most of the day, with a marginal
amount of light snow falling intermittently in the afternoon.  The sky
cleared in late afternoon.  Snow cover consisted of several cm of light
snow.  Marshes and bays were iced over, with creeks almost completely
frozen except for a very few small leads.

An overall total of 154 species have been seen on the count since its
inception in 1949.  No new species were added this year.  Common Loon was
reported for the second time only (the previous report involved a single
bird in 1991).  Other unusual species for our count included King Eider – 1
(our third record – singles were found in 1963 and 1987), Peregrine Falcon
– 1 (our third record – 2 were seen in Jan. 2011 and 1 in Dec. 2012) and
Black-crowned Night-Heron – 1 (our fifth record – previously noted in 1989
– 2, 1991 – 2, 1992 – 1, and in 2005 – 2).

Common Grackle (1) was seen for only the second time since 1991 (one bird
was also observed in Jan. 2014).  Up to 1991, this species had been
reported about every other year.  Brown Thrasher (1) was noted for only the
third time since 1984 (singles were also seen in 1992 and 2001).

We had record-high counts for Mute Swan – 110 (unfortunately!!! – the
previous maximum for this most undesirable alien was 44 in Jan. 2014);
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 28 (the previous maximum was 16 last year, and 13
in Jan. 2015); Common Raven – 17 (the previous maximum was 13 last year,
with a first-ever record in Jan. 2009); and Eastern Towhee – 3 (the
previous maximum was 2 in 1970).

Other relatively high counts included Wild Turkey – 88 (our third-highest
tally, the maximum counts were 139 in Jan. 2014 and 93 in Dec. 2012); Snow
Bunting – 240 (the highest since 2007, when 323 were seen); and Song
Sparrow – 9 (the highest since 2001, when 11 were noted).

Low counts were recorded for several dabbler ducks as well as gulls –
presumably due to the prolonged cold snap.  American Black Duck has been
seen annually since 1964, but this year’s tally of 8 was one of the two
lowest ever (only 6 were seen in 2007).  At 147, the count for Mallard was
the lowest count since 1971.  Buffleheads (18) were likewise in short
supply.  The tally was the lowest since 1983, when 12 were reported.

Counts for Ring-billed – 213, Herring – 40 and Great black-backed Gull – 4,
were all at their lowest level since Jan. 2009.  Both Glaucous and Iceland
Gulls were absent altogether, although these species have been seen on 41
and 26 CBCs respectively (but see also the count week species listed below).

As for songbirds, we had one of our lowest counts for Black-capped
Chickadee (367) since 1964.  The only CBC with a lower count during this
period was in Jan. 2005, when 294 were recorded.  A low tally was also
recorded for American Goldfinch (165) – the lowest since Jan. 2004.

Four species were reported during count week (but not on the CBC day
itself): Great Horned Owl (seen on 42 previous CBCs), Glaucous Gull (seen
on 41 previous CBCs), Rusty Blackbird (seen on 24 previous CBCs) and Red
Crossbill (seen on 8 previous CBCs).

Of the species missed on this year’s CBC, a few bear mentioning:
Golden-crowned Kinglet (reported on 53 CBCs), Purple Finch (noted on 45
CBCs), Ruffed Grouse (observed on 50 CBCs – but irregular since about
2004), and Northern Mockingbird (seen about annually since 1981).   American
Kestrel is a significant and worrisome miss.  This was the second
consecutive year that it was missed, although it had previously been
reported annually (if count week records are included) since 1959.

Most of our CBCs have been held in December (for many years, it was
scheduled on Boxing Day – Dec. 26).  When I refer to previous CBCs held in
December, I simply refer to the year.  If I refer to a count held in
January, I have made this explicit (e.g., Jan. 2010).  This should avoid
confusion regarding which CBC is being referenced.

The Pickering CBC was initiated by Dr. J. Murray Speirs on Jan. 2, 1949,
and has been carried out for 64 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 centred 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.

Please visit our website at www.pickeringnaturalists.org for more
information on our club.

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.

Sorry for the very late posting.

Steve LaForest

Pickering Naturalists

stevelaforest at hotmail.com

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