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Many Records Broken In Recent Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Census

Press Story
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
December 31, 2007
by Cliff Bennett

Many Records Broken In Recent Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Census

The fifth Annual Audubon Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, Dec. 30, under ideal winter conditions. Compared to last year when there was only a smattering of snow on the ground, this year’s deep snow made traveling off road somewhat difficult. In spite of this challenge, some surprising results occurred, including a record number of birds counted and the number of species listed increasing by one. Seven new records were broken and three completely ‘new-to-the-Lanark Highlands count’ species were listed.

Although there was some open water on the Mississippi River and into Dalhousie Lake, there were no water birds to be found this year, unlike last year where over 300 geese and a few ducks were registered. However, the twenty-three field observers and fourteen feeder counters persevered and managed to break the record for number of birds counted and species recorded. 4,005 individual birds counted this year surpassed 2004’s 3,717 and thirty-seven species beat 2005’s thirty-six species by one.

Individual records broken this year included wild turkeys, 123 (100 in 2005); mourning doves, 207 (139 in 2004); blue jays, 401 (342 in 2004) and pine grosbeaks, 132 (31 in 2004). All three woodpecker records were surpassed including downy woodpecker, 74 (52 last year); hairy woodpecker, 115 (80 in 2004) and pileated woodpecker, 12 (10 in 2004). Records were tied for sharp-shinned hawks (2) and white-throated sparrows (2). New species listed for the very first time in the count were Cooper’s hawk, grackle and cedar waxwings.

The count circle is centered on Watson’s Corners and covers a 15 km radius. The circle is divided into four equal ‘pieces of the pie’ and each was assigned a team leader, all local residents. Team A led by Bruce LeGallais included Don Brown (Kanata), Don McInerney, Pip Winters, Paul Frigon and Phil Laflamme. Team B led by Roberta Clarke, assisted by John Clarke, included Louis Frenette (Carleton Place), Lynda Bennett, Paul Sprague and Gloria Opzoomer. Team C was led by Claire Fisher and team members were George Fisher, Neil and Lucy Carleton, Jeff Mills, Jim and Yvonne Bendell and Lise Balthazar. Team D, led by Ted Mosquin, included Linda Mosquin and Mark Garbutt. Marjorie Montgomery organized and compiled the feeder counts. Project organizer and compiler was Lanark ERA columnist Cliff Bennett and the event was sponsored by Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN).

The highlight of the day as usual, was the count-in reception. Hosted by Mary Vandenhoff and staff at the Nature Lovers Book Store in Lanark, all members gathered to compare experiences, discuss the results compiled on a chart and enjoy excellent refreshments. In return for the hosting, MVFN will be making a financial contribution to the North Lanark Community Heath Centre.

MVFN wishes to thank and congratulate all participants. Complete results are as follows:

bald eagle 1; sharp-shinned hawk 2; Cooper’s hawk 2; red-tailed hawk 1; rough-legged hawk 2; ruffed grouse 3; wild turkey 123; rock pigeon 198; mourning dove 207; barred owl 2; downy woodpecker 74; hairy woodpecker 115; pileated woodpecker 12; northern shrike 1; blue jay 401; common crow 93; raven 45; chickadee 986; red-breasted nuthatch 20; white-breasted nuthatch 84; golden-crowned kinglet 3; starling 189; cedar waxwing 4′ Bohemian waxwing 90; tree sparrow 51; dark-eyed junco 41; white-throated sparrow 2; snow bunting 179; cardinal 14; common grackle 1; pine grosbeak 132; purple finch 10; house finch 6; common redpoll 466; goldfinch 132; evening grosbeak 288; house sparrow 37.