The 20th Saugeen Shores CBC was held on Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024. The ~24-kilometre count circle is centered several kilometres southeast of Port Elgin and includes Southampton, Port Elgin and Pasiley townsites, as well as adjacent waterfront and MacGregor Point Provincial Park. During count day, the weather conditions were quite variable, which added a bit of difficulty to counting birds. The wind was out of the west all day and ranged from 15-35kph, bringing lake effect bands of snow off the lake. The snow was only heavy for around 1-2 hours during the day and was mainly very light and not much of an issue in terms of obstructing viewing conditions. Temperatures were quite mild, ranging from 0 C to 2 C. Along the shoreline it definitely felt colder! 34 participants split up into 6 sections surveyed the count circle, which is higher than the last several years. Several feeder watchers also contributed, adding a few species missed by the rest of the count.
Overall we observed a total of 13,377 individuals of 66 species. This is the 2nd highest count of individual birds in the counts history (highest was 18,313 in 2021) and the highest ever species tally with 66 species observed (previous high was 64 in 2016). This is considerably higher than the long term average of 7,750 individuals and 53 species.
Highlights included 3 new species for the all time CBC list;
Greater White-fronted Goose (2 birds)
Red-throated Loon (5 birds)
Winter Wren (1 bird).
Several other notable species and high counts were recorded, including;
Tundra Swan (2nd count record)
White-winged Scoter (3rd count record)
Peregrine Falcon (2nd count record)
Canada Goose (new highvount of 6,298, previous 5,058)
Cackling Goose (new highcount of 7, previous 4)
Long-tailed Duck (new highcount of 32, previous 11)
Northern Harrier (Tied the past highcount of 2)
Bald Eagle (new highcount of 57, previous 36)
Iceland Gull (Tied the past highcount of 2)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (new highcount of 29, previous 26)
American Tree Sparrow (new highcount of 84, previous 76)
This year's count was an interesting one, as even though we set a new record for species, most participants said it was a rather quiet day. The reason for this was likely due to the extremely mid winter we’ve experienced so far in Southern Ontario. It’s quite unusual for no water to be frozen during the count, and even more unusual for no large freeze-ups to occur in November or December. Due to this, waterfowl and gull numbers were both very high, with several species setting record high counts. Overall numbers of raptors and passerines were average to low though, and Birdfeeders in every section were very quiet, resulting in low numbers of woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches. This has also been a poor winter for several northern birds like Snowy Owl and winter finches, which was reflected in our totals (missed all winter finches besides Common Redpoll and Pine Grosbeak, and missed Snowy Owl for only the 6th time in the counts history). Another interesting trend to note is the decline of the European Starling and House Sparrow, both of which seem to be showing a steady downward trend over the last 15 years.
We tried to fully eBird this Christmas Bird Count, with trip reports made for every section as well as the overall count. While this was new to many participants, it went over quiet well and should make things run smoother in subsequent years. This is a great way to view and share data and compare years, and I encourage other CBCs to follow suit (also more data for eBird!). To view the trip report, see the link below.
eBird trip report for 2024 Saugeen Shores CBC - https://ebird.org/tripreport/190947
A big thanks to everyone who participated!