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Wild Turkeys Excel in Christmas Bird Count

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Press Release

January 2, 2010

Wild Turkeys Excel in Christmas Bird Count

A new record for signing up wild turkeys was registered in the 7th Annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count, held on Wednesday, Dec. 30. The previous record of 188 turkeys, set in last year’s count, was bested this year at 288. The continued build-up of wild turkeys in the area is now evident as each year of the count produces greater numbers. The Carleton Place Count also registered a record number of wild turkeys.

Thirty-one counters took to the field this year, to register every bird seen or heard within the fifteen kilometre radius circle centered on Watsons Corners. Organized and sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and led by ERA columnist Cliff Bennett, the circle is divided into four equal pieces like a pie. Bruce LeGallais, Heron Mills Road, led section A; Bobby Clarke, Rosetta Road, headed section B; Ted Mosquin, Playfairville area, led Section C and Gloria Opzoomer, Bathurst 9th Conc. organized Section D.

Marj Montgomery, Drummond 12th line, organized and compiled reports from over sixteen feeder counters, to add to the total.

Numbers of birds counted this year were the second lowest in seven years, due mostly to the absence of winter finches from the northern Boreal Forest. A few dozen (76) evening grosbeaks were found, mostly in the Poland area, two dozen purple finches and only four redpolls showed up and no pine siskins, crossbills or pine grosbeaks were found. In spite of the low numbers, records were set for downy woodpeckers (77), Cooper’s |hawk (4) and white-breasted nuthatches (101). New to the count was a brown thrasher, which is hanging around a feeder because of an injured wing and one northern harrier.

Total count for the circle was 3154 birds, lowest only to the first count of 2829 in 2003.

Last year set a record at 4130 birds. Number of species found this year remained high at 38, two down from last year’s record listing of 40 species. Complete individual species recorded were mallard duck (1); common merganser (10, ruffed grouse (4), wild turkey (288), bald eagle (3); sharp-shinned hawk (1), northern harrier (1), Cooper’s hawk (4), red-tailed hawk #), rough-legged hawk (1); rock pigeon (210), mourning dove (98), barred owl (1), downy woodpecker (77), hairy woodpecker (89), pleated woodpecker (7), northern shrike (2), blue jay (224), crow (97), raven (30), black-capped chickadee (897), red-breasted nuthatch (25), white-breasted nuthatch (101), brown creeper (3), golden-crowned kinglet (1), brown thrasher (1), starling (97), Bohemian waxwing (93), tree-sparrows, (87), dark-eyed junco (55), snow bunting (166), cardinal (7), purple finch (26), house finch (6), common redpoll (4), goldfinch (334), evening grosbeak (76), house sparrow (13).

At the end of the count day, all participants convened to Nature Lovers Book Store in Lanark for the count-in and hot beverages. Refreshments were provided by store owner Mary Vandenhoff, assisted by Mary Dixon. 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 programmes.