By Marilyn Barnett, MVFN member and Count Coordinator
On December 30th, 2015 the 13th year of the annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (CBC), 3023 birds were recorded. This number is well down from the record of 4276 birds seen in the 2010 count, but up from last year’s lowest CBC numbers of 2640 birds. However, the total number of species counted this year was forty, almost breaking the record of forty-two different species of birds seen during the 2012 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count.
This year was still exciting with several record highs:
Two Common loons were seen on Dalhousie Lake. One loon was seen in 2004 but none during the count since then. Nine Common golden-eye ducks were spotted on the open water of Dalhousie Lake, up from the three seen in 2003. Seventy-seven Common mergansers were spotted, up from the seven seen in 2013; and thirteen Hooded mergansers were seen, up from one seen in 2011. One Merlin was seen, equaling the single ones recorded in 2008 and 2011; and four Common grackles were seen, up from two seen in 2008.
Mergansers seen during last year’s count. Photo Howard Robinson.
There were also some new species recorded this year:
An amazing 177 Snow geese and sixteen red-winged blackbirds were recorded, neither species having been seen before on the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count. The milder weather right up to count day most likely explains this!
Birds seen during count week include four bald eagles and a Northern shrike. Lows for the 2015 count were ruffed grouse, blue jays, common raven, snow buntings. Also, no waxwings, grosbeaks, or kinglets were seen at all this year. There is always next year!
This year there were thirty-one field counters: stalwart folk tramping along country roads and into fields and up to feeders (those not being monitored by feeder counters) from early morning until 3:30 in the afternoon. We had thirty-eight field counters signed up but unfortunately seven were unable to attend due to the sudden heavy snowfall. They were unable to get out of their driveways. There were only eight feeder counters this year which may also explain the lower overall numbers. Participation from our Young Naturalist’s was new this year and we had two avid young people wanting to learn more about birds in Lanark.
Sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, the annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count takes place every December 30th no matter the weather. 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 leader. Thanks to Bruce LeGallais, Bobby Clarke, Lise Balthazar and Pip Winters who have all served as section leaders for many years. All of the volunteer leaders, field and feeder 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 was able to see the results as they came in, and to Cliff Bennett for his helpful commentary and contribution throughout.
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 the Audubon Society and used for research and conservation programs. For further information or a complete list of the tally, please contact data complier 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 the list for December 30th, 2016.