Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

On December 30th, 2017 the 15th year of the annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count, the total number of birds counted was 3419, lower than the highest count of 4276 in 2010. The number of different species found was 31, the lowest in all 15 years of the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count.

All across the province, lower numbers of birds were recorded, probably due to frigid temperatures, although the number of different species seen has come in quite high, almost normal. The average numbers of birds recorded on the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird count day is 3520.  Over the fifteen years of conducting the count, a total of seventy-eight different species have been recorded. The Lanark Highlands count is one of three local counts sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (other MVFN counts are the Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count an the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count which includes Almonte).

The somewhat low number of species counted this year can generally be attributed to the absence of waterfowl in the area owing to the severe cold weather and freeze-up of most water areas.   Another factor compared to previous years may be the lower number of observers available on count day. At least one couple had to decline on short notice owing to illness. Also, there may have been less walking overall due to cold temperatures.

We had two new species this year to set two new records:  two Lapland longspurs were seen and photographed as well as a winter wren. While blue jays (565) were most plentiful they did not break the record of 641 in 2013.   Dark-eyed Juncos (456) did however set a record compared with the 276 seen in 2013.

Aside from the bald eagles, there were only three other raptors counted this year, an almost low number for this count. The usual high for raptors is around thirty.

So far the count-week birds are a lonely Canada goose (1) seen on Dec 29th 2017, plus a Northern shrike (1) and a red-tailed hawk (1).

The official listing for this year’s count is as follows;

ruffed grouse (23); wild turkeys (262); bald eagles (10); golden eagle (1); red-tailed hawk (2); rock pigeon (138); mourning doves (190); barred owl (1); downy woodpecker (55); hairy woodpecker (73); pileated woodpecker (6); blue jay (565); crow (122); ravens (53); black-backed chickadees (518); red-breasted nuthatches (21); white-breasted nuthatches (56); brown creepers (2); winter wren (1); robins (5); starlings (91); cedar waxwing (1); tree sparrows (140); juncos (456); Lapland longspurs (2); snow buntings (185); cardinals (15); purple finch (9); common redpoll (12); pine siskins (35); goldfinch (369).

click here for pdf of detailed results for 2017 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count

Sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, the annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC) takes place every December 30th, no matter the weather.  The field counters take to the roads and fields to register every bird seen or heard within a fifteen-kilometer radius centered on Watson’s Corners. The circle is divided into four equal sections each with a Section leader.  Special thanks to Ian Paige, Jeff Mills, Ramsey Hart, Lise Balthazar and Pip Winters who served as Section Leaders, and to Marj Montgomery who organizes the Feeder Count.  All the volunteer leaders, counters and coordinators are to be commended.

Special thanks to Howard Robinson for setting up his laptop and screen at the Lanark Civitan Club and entering the data so that everyone could see the results as they came in, and to Cliff Bennett for doing the final compilation of the results and his contribution throughout the count, not to mention his encouragement to area birders.

The Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count is one of over two thousand counts held across North and South America and is the largest citizen-scientist activity anywhere in the world. All records are stored with Bird Studies Canada and the Audubon Society and used for research and conservation programs. For further information please contact compiler Cliff Bennett at or count coordinator Marilyn Barnett at   If you know birds by sight or sound and would like to participate in next year’s count, please contact Marilyn to be added to her list for the December 30th, 2018 LHCBC.

by Cliff Bennett and Marilyn Barnett





Continue reading...

On December 27th, 38 brave souls braved the ongoing frigid temperatures (-25 to -29) with just enough breeze to make it a challenge to be outside counting birds as part of a field team for the 118th Audubon Christmas Bird Count in the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count (CBC) circle.  As well, 22 feeder observers participated at their homes. The Carleton Place count was one of three Audubon Christmas Bird Counts sponsored by MVFN within the local area (including the 2017 Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count and the 2017 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count).

The count recorded 40 different species, and 5379 individual birds were recorded.  These numbers are a good 10% below the averages.  The main reason being the continuing lack of northern birds in the area; there were no Bohemian Waxwings, Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks or Evening Grosbeaks seen on count day or during the count week.  As well the low temperatures convinced the thousands of geese in the area in late November to head south.  Also, fewer hawks were seen throughout the area with no Roughies being seen at all.

Despite this it was a great day with 2 new records set and 2 past records tied. The highlight was a Short-eared Owl which Howard and Mary Robinson found north of Carleton Place sunning itself on a step in the middle of the day. This was a first-time bird for our CBC.  As well a record number of Juncos were recorded (310).  In the last few years people have observed more Juncos at feeders and they stay longer, so maybe the CBC count is confirming this trend. In addition, one Rusty Blackbird was found in a farm yard by Ken Alison and Sophie Roy as well as one Red-bellied Woodpecker found by Arnie and Martha Simpson.  Both these birds tied the past records.



The end of the day count in took place at the Carleton Place Arena and the MVFN Social Committee provided delicious snacks and refreshments.  Many thanks to all the volunteers who made this another successful and enjoyable Christmas Bird Count.

A PDF of the complete results are available here.

Wishing all of you the best in 2018!



Continue reading...

In contrast to two other local counts sponsored by MVFN (on December 27 and 30), the Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count was held in relatively good weather on December 16, 2017 and a record number of 58 species were counted! The Rideau Ferry count was one of three Audubon Christmas Bird Counts sponsored by MVFN within the local area (others counts 2017 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count and the 2017 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count).

Alison Bentley: “It was a record count with 58 species, which all goes to prove that the compiler (yours truly) should go away more often and miss the actual day of the count! Weather was nice, and we had some really good experienced birders join up, so the combination of the two led to great sightings. This photo by Howard and Mary Robinson kind of sums it all up – snow, some open water and a Mallard just hanging out. Also one of the Gray Catbird which, along with Northern Pintail and Double-crested Cormorant was new for the count, and of course an excellent winter sighting. Thanks to the Route 3 team of Mark Gawn and Marc Bosc for these observations. Unfortunately, the catbird was visibly shivering, and its survival seemed unlikely.”

The chart below the photos, summarizes results of the 4396 birds counted and was prepared by count compiler Alison Bentley. Or click here for a pdf of these 2017 Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count results.


Continue reading...

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) have taken place in the Western Hemisphere since 1900. In the local area there are four count circles (7 1/2-mile radius) which are active, including Carleton Place, Rideau Ferry, and Lanark Highlands CBC’s, all sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, and the Pakenham-Arnprior CBC. For information on the Carleton Place CBC or Rideau Ferry CBC’s follow these links. For information on the Pakenham-Arnprior CBC visit the Macnamara Field Naturalists website.

The Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count began in 2003 and filled a large gap in North Lanark County bird census. The Lanark Highlands count is centered on Watson’s Corners and takes in Brightside to the north, most of Dalhousie Lake to the west, south to within a kilometre of Balderson and east to include Middleville.  The Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count is always on December 30th which this year falls on a Saturday.

The Christmas Bird Count is conducted by interested birders who are formed into teams each with a group leader.  These avid birders comb the roads, trails and woodlots during the count day to record every bird seen or heard. The results are sent to Bird Studies Canada. This annual event produces a definitive census of our bird population across the entire Western Hemisphere and is used for many research and conservation programs designed to encourage the continuing health of our avian friends.

Field Count: All persons interested in gathering data on our local bird population are invited to join in the field count. Teams will be formed, each team having a knowledgeable birder. Each team will be assigned a count area and will spend the daylight hours from 8 a.m. counting every bird they see or hear. Many of us meet at the Lanark Landing for lunch on George Street in Lanark at noon to warm up and share stories before heading out for a few more hours of counting. At 3:30 or so, the birders gather at the Lanark Civitan Hall just outside Lanark Village along Pine Grove Road (called South Street in Lanark Village) to tally their findings, enjoy hot refreshments and some tasty goodies and watch the final count numbers as they come in. This is a fun and important day as we keep track of and record our local bird populations for research purposes.  If you have not participated before and would like to register for the field count, please contact Marilyn, preferably by e-mail at ,  or call her at 613-259-2269.

Yard/Feeder Count: Residents in the count circle area who have active bird feeders may like to take part in the count as a feeder counter by spending a few hours documenting birds at their feeders. Feeder Counters must register before Christmas with Feeder Count Coordinator Marj Montgomery, preferably by email at or by leaving a message at 613-259-3078.  On December 30, the feeder watchers will count every bird coming in to their feeders or appearing in their yard and, by 2 p.m., send (preferably by email) your results to Marj or leave her a message.  These numbers will be totalled and added to the main count from the field observations.

Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count coordinator is Marilyn Barnett. Howard Robinson enters all the data into our central data base. Complier of the data is Cliff Bennett who submits the data to Bird Studies Canada.


Continue reading...

Birders and nature enthusiasts in Carleton Place and surrounding areas can join citizen scientists throughout the Americas and participate in the Audubon Society’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The Carleton Place CBC will be held this year on Wednesday, December 27th and it is sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN; one of three sponsored by MVFN, including the Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count and the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count) and coordinated in Canada by Bird Studies Canada.  The count area is a 24 km circle centered on the bridge over the Mississippi River in Carleton Place, and includes Almonte, Appleton and Ashton.

Thousands of individuals participate in counts throughout the Americas and beyond between December 14, 2017 and January 5, 2018. “Each CBC volunteer observer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation.  Bird Studies Canada and its partner at the National Audubon Society in the United States rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations.  Last year, during the 2016 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count over 60 volunteers spent the day observing birds resulting in the recording of over 6000 birds and 39 different species.

The CBC tradition began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history.  On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the ‘side hunt,’ a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals.  Instead, Chapman proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort.   The first Audubon bird count in Carleton Place took place in 1944.

Volunteers are essential to the success of the CBC. You don’t need to be an expert but it helps to be familiar with local bird species.  In any case, participants in the field counts will be placed in a team led by an experienced birder and everyone is welcome. You will need a pair of binoculars.  As well residents with bird feeders within a count area can also help by listing all birds at your feeder or in your yard on the count day.

For more information or to register for the Carleton Place CBC on December 27th, please contact Iain Wilkes at 613-250-0722 or .  If you are interested in helping out by counting birds at your feeder/yard, please register with Georgina Doe at 613- 257-2103.  At the end of the Carleton Place count day, field participants return to the Board Room on the first floor of the Carleton Place Arena at 75 Neelin St. in Carleton Place (corner of Neelin St. and Begley St.),  for the count-in as well as refreshments and snacks.

Best of the Season to All!

Continue reading...