Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

2019 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count  – Final Tally

The 16th annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC) took place on January 4th, 2020. The normal annual date of December 30th had to be changed due to freezing rain conditions.

The total number of birds counted and recorded this year was 3008 birds, lower than the highest count, in 2010, of 4276, but only 3 fewer than 2017. The total number of species recorded was 35, 4 more than last year. Over the sixteen years of conducting the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count, which started in 2003, a total of seventy-five species has been recorded. The lower number of species can generally be attributed to the absence of waterfowl in the area on count day owing to the severe cold weather and freeze-up of most water areas.   This year, although there was some open water on Mississippi River and Dalhousie Lake, there were no water birds reported.

By L. Balthazar

There was a good count of bald eagles (around 7) although not a record. The record was two years ago (2017) with a count of 17. All other raptors were absent except two red-tailed hawks, a Cooper’s hawk and five barred owls.

The feeder count had the same number of species as last year (23) but over 400 fewer birds. It was a good year for ruffed grouse (16). The record was in 2013 (38).  This year’s count was the third best for blue jays (586). The record was 641 in 2013.  This was only the third year that white-winged crossbills were spotted.  All other birds in the finch family were absent except goldfinches. They are still up north in the Boreal forest because of an excellent food source.

Sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC) takes place every December 30th no matter the weather except this year. The field counters take to the roads and fields to register every bird seen or heard within a twelve 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, Rémy Poulin and Pip Winters who serve as Section Leaders, and to Lise Balthazar who organizes the Feeder Count.   Everyone did a great job especially when we had to suddenly change the date. All of the volunteer leaders, feeder counters, field counters and coordinators are to be commended for spending the entire day as citizen-scientists. 

Thank you to Michel Gauthier for setting up his laptop and screen at the Lanark Civitan Club and entering the data so that everyone is able to see the results as they come in, and to Cliff Bennett for doing the final audit of the results. His contribution throughout the count since the Lanark Highlands count began, including his inspiration and encouragement to area birders, is immeasurable. 

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 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 get in touch in early December 2020.

Submitted by Marilyn Barnett

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Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count Results 2019

The Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count took place on December 14, maintaining the tradition of having the count on the first available Saturday in the designated CBC period. The weather was quite appalling with overcast skies and persistent rain, however mercifully the promised freezing rain failed to appear. Some roads and trails were still quite icy so caution was in order.

Despite the less than wonderful conditions the count attracted 30 field observers split into 9 parties, while 15 people watched birds at their feeders. A total of 46 species were tallied, comprising some 5724 individuals. This was a far better total than I had originally forecasted when confronted with the weather forecast and experiencing the actual conditions in the field.

Two new species were observed for the count: Lesser Black-backed and Iceland Gulls, both single birds identified after close scrutiny of a huge flock of Herring Gulls heading over Rideau Ferry late in the day. Thanks to Mark Gawn and his team for their diligence and expertise. Many species were indeed represented by a single individual: Bufflehead, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Kestrel and Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Notable by their absence were the winter finches, presumably because of the bumper food supply further north. Four additional species were observed during the count week (3 days either side of the count date): Great Blue Heron, Great Horned Owl, Snow Bunting and Common Grackle.

The results were compiled during a potluck dinner at Sarah Anderson’s home on the outskirts of Perth where attendees enjoyed a lively social interaction (largely dominated by birding stories!) before heading out into the snowstorm that had blown up. Luckily all made it home safely.  The results can be seen at Rideau Ferry CBC Results or on the Audubon site.

Alison Bentley
ONRF CBC Compiler

Thumbnail Photo by Camilla Cerea/Audubon

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Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count Results

On December 27th, 2019 local Mississippi Valley and area volunteers took part in the 120th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The annual event is a worldwide citizen science project organized by Audubon, Birds Canada and supported by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. The event involves the surveying of bird populations within thousands of predefined areas, each roughly 450 square km. It was a foggy mild day when volunteers recorded the number and species type of each bird seen anywhere within a 12 km radius circle centered on the Carleton Place downtown bridge. The recorded sightings are valuable data provided to Audubon for their ongoing research into changes and distributions of bird populations.

Merlin – Photo by Remy Poulin

This year CBC was supported by 34 field and 27 feeder observers who recorded 5326 individual birds comprising 44 species. The results are very close to the 10-year average. Highlights were a first ever Winter Wren heard singing outside of Almonte as well as a record number of White-breasted Nuthatches (194) and Pileated Woodpeckers (21) seen. A wide range of raptors were observed including Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk as well as Barred Owl and Northern Hawk Owl. Due to abundant seeds this year in the northern boreal forest, many finches did not come south resulting in very few being seen in our area. The complete list of sightings can be found at CP CBC Results 2019  as well as on the Audubon site within their CBC pages for all areas including ours which is designated by Audubon as “ONCP”.

At the end of the day field observers gathered at the Carleton Place Library to share stories and pictures as well as submit their results to Iain Wilkes the local CBC Coordinator. Many thanks to the MVFN Social Committee volunteers, Suzanne and Jane, who provide much needed refreshment and snacks.

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Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owls are a boreal species which behaves like a hawk but looks like an owl.  The black outline around the face combined with the long tail and barring on the front distinguish this medium size owl.   The Owl in the picture appeared in mid December near Hwy 7 at the east end of Lanark County but unfortunately it was killed in a few days by a car.   Sometimes in winter this species moves south.  There has been a number of sightings across southern Ontario this year so far.  As Owls are a considered a “sensitive” species it is best not to disturb them.

Picture by Michel Gauthier

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120th Audubon Christmas Bird Count

 

Once again it is the Audubon Christmas Bird Count season! This is the 120th year of Christmas Bird Counts and there are three planned for our area; Rideau Ferry, Carleton Place, and Lanark Highlands.

Birders and nature enthusiasts in the three CBCs 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).

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 their feeder or in their yard on count day.

This year we will be without the participation of Howard Robinson due to his sudden passing. He supported the area CBCs for many years and dedicated countless hours to MVFN activities which he led and/or participated in. His smile, enthusiasm and many excellent pictures of birds will be missed. I know all of us are remembering him fondly and he will be a constant presence looking through our binoculars during each count.

The highlight from a past CP CBC 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

Thousands of individuals participate in counts throughout the Americas and beyond between December 14 and January 5 each year. Every CBC volunteer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation. Birds Canada and its partner, the National Audubon Society in the United States rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations.

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 proposed 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 suggested 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.

Count                                   Date                                 CBC Coordinator                                           Contact

Rideau Ferry                     Dec 14th                             Alison Bentley                                 
Carleton Place                   Dec 27th                            Iain Wilkes                                       
Lanark Highlands            Dec 30th                            Marilyn Barnett                                

 

Best of the Season to All

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