Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

On December 27, 2016, local birders took part in the Audubon Society’s 117th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) supported within Canada by Bird Studies Canada.   Audubon’s CBC is composed of over 2300 defined areas across North America where thousands of citizen scientists each year volunteer their time to record every bird within an area on one specific day between December 14th and January 5th.   The center of the bridge over the Mississippi River in Carleton Place defines the center of a 12-km radius circle within which all species and individuals are recorded.  The resultant data is provided to Audubon for research into changing species populations and locations and it is an essential element in conservation plans and habitat protection across our continent.

This year 38 field and 25 feeder observers participated in the 66th Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count.  The day was mild, between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius, and cloudy, with a wind from the west that made it feel colder.  The results were much lower than last year’s excellent numbers, but still around the average for count day.  There were just over 6000 individuals seen and 39 species.  An additional two species were seen during count week (Snowy Owl and Sharp-shinned Hawk).

Table of Data from count-in:  CP CBC 2016 Count Data pdf

Highlights of the 2016 Carleton Place Count:

  • 428 Wild Turkeys was a record high
  • Waterfowl numbers were way down because the river is mostly frozen:  1 Canada Goose! 39 Mallards and 25 Goldeneye
  • Raptors were generally less abundant, except for Goshawks; 3 Goshawks was equal to a past record
  • 1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak found at a feeder
  • 1 Song Sparrow and 1 Carolina Wren at a feeder
  • Again, this year finches were consistently low, with 7 Redpolls, no Purple Finches, no Siskins, no Crossbills and no Pine Grosbeaks
  • 181 Robins
  • Good numbers of Starlings: 1223

Many thanks go to all the volunteers who make this important conservation program successful and to the MVFN social committee, who organized the food and refreshments at the end of the day in the community room where the tired field volunteers arrived to have their data recorded, and to trade stories of their day.  The Carleton Place CBC is organized by Iain Wilkes and supported by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2017!

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Rideau Ferry Christmas  Bird Count

Press Release

Alison Bentley

On Saturday December 17, 2016 birders from Perth, Smiths Falls, and from as far away as Kingston and Ottawa, will be participating in the 117th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  The Rideau Ferry CBC area is a 24 km diameter circle centered on Rideau Ferry and covers the town of Perth, most of Smith’s Falls, Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, several conservation areas, and a variety of habitats ranging from open fields and dense woodlands to wetlands and lakes.

Count organizers are looking not only for experienced birders to help cover one of the count sections but also for enthusiastic participants who would like to come out and learn more about which birds choose to stay with us over the winter.  If you are interested in becoming part of a field team, please contact Compiler Alison Bentley at  or 613-273-4428.

We are especially looking for people within the count circle who have bird feeders and can keep an extra eye on them on December 17; full instructions will be provided.  The Feeder Coordinator Judy Buehler, would love to hear from you if you can help in this regard.  Feeders are a very important part of the survey as frequently birds show up at these sheltered winter food sources that are not recorded elsewhere in the circle.  We had very few reports from feeders in 2015 so are particularly anxious to hear from potential feeder watchers this year.  If you don’t have email, please call Judy at 613-264-8856.

Results from the day’s observations will be compiled at a potluck supper in Perth, to which all field and feeder observers are invited, and then sent to Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society.  Christmas Bird Counts take place all over the Western Hemisphere and are vital in providing an accurate assessment of the health of wintering bird populations.  The over 76,000 volunteers taking part in the counts can track wintering bird populations on a much larger scale than scientists alone can hope to do.  Data collected from the counts has been used for a multiplicity of research studies and to monitor climate change.  As the Audubon report on the 116th count states: “The cumulative efforts of all CBC participants over the past five decades has enabled Audubon and other groups to document how species have shifted their early-winter ranges in the face of a changing climate”.

If you can help us to do our part in this important bird monitoring initiative, please contact one of the coordinators listed above.  Looking forward to seeing you on December 17!

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The 13th annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count will be held on Wednesday, December 30, 2015. The count circle includes Brightside to the north, Middleville to the east, most of Dalhousie Lake to the west, and south to within a km. of Balderson. The Coordinator is Marilyn Barnett.

To register for the teams going out in the field to count, please contact Marilyn Barnett, preferably by email at or at 613-259-2269.

To register for the Feeder Counts, please contact Marjorie Montgomery before Christmas at or,  if necessary, by telephone at 613-259-3078.

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow. Photo Susan Wilkes

 

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Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count

The Rideau Ferry CBC will take place on Saturday December 19, 2015. The count area is a 24 km diameter circle centered on Rideau Ferry, and includes the town of Perth, most of Smith’s Falls, several conservation areas, and Murphy’s Point Provincial Park. A variety of habitats ranging from wetlands and open fields to dense woodlands are found within the circle. The Rideau Ferry CBC returns this year, not a new count, but newly sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists.

The Rideau Ferry CBC organizers are looking for additional field observers to go out with the field teams to count birds.  Both experienced and less experienced birders are welcome to help.  If you are interested in becoming part of a field team, please contact the Rideau Ferry CBC Coordinator Rosemary Anderson at or Compiler Alison Bentley at as soon as possible.

Also, if you live in the count circle and have bird feeders you can keep an close eye on for December 19, you can become part of the feeder count. Full instructions are provided.  Please contact Feeder Count Coordinator Judy Buehler at to register. Counting birds at feeders is a very important part of the survey, as often there are birds which show up at these winter food sources but are not recorded elsewhere.

Bald_Eagle (2)

 Bald Eagle, winter 2014. photo by Susan Wilkes

Results from the day’s observations will be compiled at a potluck supper in Perth and later will be sent to Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society.  Christmas Bird Counts take place all over the Western Hemisphere and are vital in providing an accurate assessment of the health of wintering populations of birds.  The over 70,000 volunteers taking part in the counts can track bird populations on a much larger scale than scientists alone can hope to do.

 If you can help us do our part in this important citizen science project, please contact one of the coordinators listed above.  Looking forward to seeing you on December 19th!

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Local birders get set for 116th Audubon Christmas Bird Count 

NOTE: The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists sponsor three area Christmas Bird Counts: the Carleton Place CBC, the Lanark Highlands CBC and the newly reorganized Rideau Ferry CBC. Details for the Carleton Place count are included below at the end of this article. Link to the Rideau Ferry Count details here; details for the Lanark Highlands CBC will be posted soon; the dates and key contact info are on our interactive calendar for December.

Birders and nature enthusiasts in Carleton Place, Almonte 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 Sunday, December 27th and it is sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) 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.

Great Horned Owl Howard Robinson

 A Great Horned Owl, seen during last year’s Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count. Photo Howard Robinson. 

Thousands of individuals will participate in counts throughout the Americas and beyond between December 14, 2015 and January 5, 2016. “Each CBC volunteer observer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation.”  Bird Studies Canada and  partners at the National Audubon Society in the United States rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations.  Last year, during the 2014 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count over 60 volunteers spent the day observing birds resulting in the recording of over 5400 birds and 47 different species.

The CBC tradition began over a century ago when a conservation minded ornithologist, Frank Chapman, along with others, were becoming concerned about declining bird populations.  On Christmas Day in 1900, Frank Chapman proposed a new holiday tradition to take the place of the traditional Christmas Day “Side Hunt” competition to shoot the most birds and small mammals.  Instead, Chapman proposed a “Christmas Bird Census” to identify, count, and record as many birds as they could, 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; everyone is welcome. You will need a pair of binoculars.  As well, residents with bird feeders within a count area can 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 or 613-250-0722. 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 Community Room upstairs at Mitchell’s Independent in Carleton Place on McNeely Avenue for the count-in as well as refreshments.

Best of the Season to All!

 

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