Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Results of Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count by Cliff Bennett

 

 

 

 

Photo by Lise Balthazar

The 18th Annual Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird count was highly successful this year. Held always on December 30 (except once due to icy conditions), the Count is centered on Watsons Corners and forms a circle within a 15 km radius. Sixty persons took part in the Count, 36 out in the field and 24 counting at their feeders. These 60 people counted 3 872 birds from 39 different species.

How does this compare with past results over 18 years? The record number of people counting totaled 62 in 2016; the record number of birds counted were 4 276 in 2010 and the record number of species listed was 42 in 2012. So, all in all, 2020 was a very good year.

One new species, a pied-billed grebe was listed for the first time. This bird was found in open water just up from the bridge at the foot of Dalhousie Lake. A record tying number of barred owls (6) and northern harriers(1) was tallied, tied with 2010 and 2009 respectively and this year the record number of trumpeter swans (16) was broken, up from (8) found in 2016. The Count leader this year was Jeff Mills, from Cedar Hill, and the feeder count leader was Lise Balthazar, Sheridan Rapids Road. Marcel Gauthier, Almonte, compiled and published the count figures. Congratulations to the participants of the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count for this valuable contribution to North American citizen science work.

It was a German scientist in 1855, followed by others, who suggested birds were capable of detecting the earth’s magnetic field and using geomagnetism to guide them on migration. An early experimenter placed a small magnet on a bird’s wing prior to migration. The bird became totally disoriented and, on another note, adding to my series about bird migration theories (in the Lanark Era):

In the 1960’s, experimenters enlarged on the magnet trial by placing non-magnetic bars on several groups of homing pigeons and magnetic bars on others. They were taken a few hundred miles from home and released under heavy clouds to cut out the influence of the sun. The pigeons without magnets came home to their roost five out of seven times while those with magnets failed miserably. These studies showed magnetism influences bird behaviour; but does it help with migration?

In the 1980’s, at Cornell University, under strict experimental rules, scientist were able to prove, using Indigo buntings and Swainson’s thrushes, that birds at least initially orient themselves to the magnetic field when embarking on migration. It seems then, that the jury is still out on this intriguing aspect of how birds migrate. Next column, I’ll tell about migration theories using stars, sun and moon.

 

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2020 Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count Results

 

 

 

On December 27th, 2020 local Mississippi Valley and area volunteers took part in the 121th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).    The annual event is a worldwide citizen science project organized by Audubon and Birds Canada and it is 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. Volunteers record the number and the 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.

This year’s CBC was supported by 30 field and 29 feeder observers who recorded 8338 individual birds comprising 51 species.  The results are very close to our record levels of 8800 individuals and 52 species.   In addition, there were 4 count week species and 8 records tied or broken.

  • Green-winged Teal – found by Rene behind RONA – a first ever
  • Mallard – record high 95 with 83 from Mike’s CP town count
  • Bald Eagle at 7
  • Coopers Hawk – tied at 3
  • Raven – at 86
  • White-breasted Nuthatch at 265
  • Cardinal at 93
  • Eastern Towhee – continues at a local feeder

Ravens by: Sheila Craig and Redpoll by: Penny Osbourne

There were over 1300 Common Redpolls seen with a couple of Hoary Redpolls mixed in, as well there was good numbers of Bohemians and Raptors.  A couple of Red-winged Blackbirds and a Bluebird were still in the area (good spotting Mary – last time I remember it was you and Howard who brought home the Bluebirds).

Thank you one and all for your participation and excellent efforts.  A special thanks to the new participants (Natalika, Irena, Gerard, William and Sheila) and the return of Ron who did his traditional trail walk.  Best to all of you in 2021 and may all of your birding include at least one new species.

The complete list of sightings can be found on the MVFN website under the Birding menu as well as on the Audubon site within their CBC pages for all areas including ours which is designated by Audubon as “ONCP”.

Happy New Year to All of You.

Cheers

Iain

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Local Area Christmas Bird Counts

 

 

Announcement by Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

 

Once again it is the Audubon Christmas Bird Count season!  This is the 121th 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 world and participate in the Audubon Society’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  Thousands of individuals participate in counts 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.

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.  This year will be very different as the counts will need to be done in line with all local health guidelines regards COVID 19.    For the count day it means first and foremost no one should participate unless they are showing no symptoms and feel safe doing a day in the field.  Secondly, field observers should only share the same vehicle with others if they are safe doing so. Thirdly all participates should have a mask available whenever required.  Finally, there will be no count meeting at the end of the day.  Instead each coordinator will arrange to distribute the results to participants. For more information or to register for the CBC at any of the 3 count circles please contact one of the following CBC Coordinators:

Count Date CBC Coordinator Contact
Rideau Ferry Dec 19th Alison Bentley
Carleton Place Dec 27th Iain Wilkes
Lanark Highlands Dec 30th Jeff Mills

Best of the Season to All

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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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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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