2014 Lanark Highlands Bird Count Records Lowest Numbers
by Marilyn Barnett
On December 30th, the 12th year of the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count, 2640 birds were recorded as seen or heard during the count day. Compare this to the highest count numbers on record, in 2010, when 4276 birds were counted. The average count is 3574 so the 2014 count was almost 1000 birds below average. This year’s count of 34 species showed the 2nd lowest number of species since the count began in 2003. During the highest year to date, in 2012, 42 species were recorded.
We had 32 counters in the field (11 fewer field counters than last year) and 18 feeder counters (one fewer feeder counter compared with last year), an average number of citizen scientists. Low number of birds can be attributed to the weather; no snow cover, high pressure zone, and brilliant sunlight, as well as fewer counters. Birds were just not moving around or flying high to be seen and recorded in the usual numbers. Despite the disappointing numbers, the enthusiastic field counters braved the cold and their efforts are valuable and appreciated.
In spite of the low count, two records were achieved. The fourteen pileated woodpeckers seen was two more than the 12 recorded last year and in 2007. 115 white breasted nuthatches were counted, 14 more than the record to date, in 2009.
Even with much open water, only Canada geese were recorded. During the count week though, two common mergansers and a black duck were sighted. Numbers of wild turkeys were very low (98), well below the average of 162. No purple finches, pine grosbeaks or waxwings were seen or heard this year and only six snow buntings were recorded.
Common Mergansers seen during the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird count. Photo by Howard Robinson
There were no owls spotted on count day, although a barred owl was counted during the count week. Almost all species counted were below average in numbers but hairy woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays were above average in numbers.
The Feeder Counts were down by over a third with only 797 birds, compared with 1524 counted in 2012. Marj Montgomery is the Feeder Count Coordinator. Marj combined the reports from her feeder counters to add to the total. Thank you to Marj and to all the feeder counters who monitored their feeders for the day and recorded their findings.
In summary, 69 species have been listed since the count began in 2003. Important bird species listed during count week (three days before and three days after count day but not seen on count day) included common merganser, black duck, great blue heron and a barred owl.
Sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, the Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC) takes place every December 30th. The field counters take to the roads and fields to register every bird seen or heard within a fifteen kilometer radius centered on Watson’s Corners. The circle is divided into four equal sections each with a Section leader. Thanks to Bruce LeGallais, Bobby Clarke, Lise Balthazar and Pip Winters who all serve as Section Leaders. All of the volunteer leaders and counters are to be commended.
Special thanks to Howard Robinson for setting up his laptop and screen at the Lanark Civitan Club and entering the data so that everyone was able to see the results as they came in and to Cliff Bennett for his helpful commentary and contribution throughout.
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 data complier Cliff Bennett at or count coordinator Marilyn Barnett at . Results are also posted here: LH CBC Results If you know birds by sight or sound and would like to participate in next year’s count, please contact Marilyn to be added to her list for December 30th, 2015.