Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count 2009


Birders and nature enthusiasts in Carleton Place and area will join birders across the western hemisphere and participate in Audubon’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), to be held on December 27th. This year, over 2,000 individual counts are scheduled to take place throughout the Americas and beyond from December 14, 2009 to January 5, 2010.

“Each CBC volunteer observer is an important contributor, helping to shape the overall direction of bird conservation,” says Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada’s Christmas Bird Count Coordinator. “Bird Studies Canada and our partners at the National Audubon Society in the United States, rely on data from the CBC database to monitor bird populations across North America.” During last year’s count, about 70 million birds were tallied by nearly 58,000 volunteers across the continent, which was a record number of observers. In Canada, 11,565 participants counted over 3.2 million birds on a record-high 371 counts.

The data gathered by all this work goes into a huge database used daily by biologists all over the world to monitor the populations and distribution of North American birds. Some of it is key evidence for serious declines; recently Christmas Bird Count data provided pivotal information in the decision to list the Newfoundland Red Crossbill and Rusty Blackbird under the federal Species At Risk Act.

The CBC 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 posed 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 proposed 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 – and a more than century-old institution.

Since Chapman’s retirement in 1934, new generations of observers have performed the modern-day count. Today, over 55,000 volunteers from all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands, count and record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area.

The 110th CBC is expected to be larger than ever, expanding its geographical coverage and accumulating information about the winter distributions of various birds. The CBC is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere, and the data, which are 100% volunteer generated, have become a crucial part of Canada’s natural history monitoring database.

The Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count takes place on Sunday, December 27th and it is organized by Iain Wilkes, who is also the official Carleton Place compiler for BSC and Georgina Doe co-ordinates all of the feeder counts. Volunteers are welcomed and you don’t need to be an expert but it helps to know the local birds. Participants will be placed in a team led by an experienced birder. You will need a pair of binoculars, a hot thermos and lunch. There is a $5 participation fee levied for each counter. For more information or to register, contact Iain Wilkes, 257-1126 or . Home residents with bird feeders can also help by listing all birds at your feeder or in your yard on the count day. Feeder counters should register with Georgina Doe, 257-2103.

At the end of the day, count teams return to the Community Room upstairs at Steve’s Independent in Carleton Place on McNeely Avenue for the count-in as well as refreshments. We look forward to the December 27th count and best of the season to all.

-Iain Wilkes

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Audubon’s Birds of America digitized online at The University of Pittsburgh

Audubon’s Birds of America digitized online at The University of Pittsburgh

The University Library System (ULS) at the University of Pittsburgh has digitized and mounted online its rare and complete set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America at

Each of the 435 plates link to their respective narrative within Audubon’s companion publication, his Ornithological Biography, also digitized as part of this project. No other complete set of the double elephant folio edition of the Birds of America is publicly available online in such high detail.

The University of Pittsburgh acquired a complete set of the Birds of America in 1918 when the daughters of William M. Darlington donated their father’s personal library to the University. Since then, the plates have undergone significant preservation work and have been on exhibit in Hillman Library. In late 2007, the Birds of America collection and the accompanying Ornithological Biography were scanned as part of a larger effort to digitize and make accessible contents from the Darlington Memorial Library.

The ULS Digital Research Library scanned each of the 435 hand-colored plates at a high resolution by using its A0 DigiBook SupraScan device. Each plate, measuring 26 x 38 inches, was digitized at 400 ppi in 24-bit color using a linear array 14000 pixel CCD camera. The capture of such high quality images has produced master files in excess of 500 MB each. For displaying the images online, the DRL created derivative images using the flash-based Zoomify application. This viewing tool enables users to easily move around an image while viewing portions of the plates at 100%.

Each of the 435 plates is accompanied by a brief descriptive record, which includes the engraved plate number, the name of the bird as designated by Audubon, the common name of the bird, the size of the engraved plate, and the plate caption, including the Latin scientific name of the bird. Rather than supply a detailed and lengthy description of each plate, the project team capitalized on connecting to Audubon’s rich narratives presented in his Ornithological Biography.

The digitization of this five-volume set by the DRL enabled each plate to be linked from its brief descriptive record to its respective narrative in the Ornithological Biography. This functionality supports a key relationship for those desiring to read Audubon’s observations and notes that he penned on each bird while examining the plates in great detail. Likewise, the digital version of the Ornithological Biography contains links to each plate image.

Individual plate reproductions are available for sale produced from the digital source using a giclée process and printed to scale on archival quality fine art mould-made paper.

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Many Records Broken In Recent Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Census

Press Story
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
December 31, 2007
by Cliff Bennett

Many Records Broken In Recent Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Census

The fifth Annual Audubon Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, Dec. 30, under ideal winter conditions. Compared to last year when there was only a smattering of snow on the ground, this year’s deep snow made traveling off road somewhat difficult. In spite of this challenge, some surprising results occurred, including a record number of birds counted and the number of species listed increasing by one. Seven new records were broken and three completely ‘new-to-the-Lanark Highlands count’ species were listed.

Although there was some open water on the Mississippi River and into Dalhousie Lake, there were no water birds to be found this year, unlike last year where over 300 geese and a few ducks were registered. However, the twenty-three field observers and fourteen feeder counters persevered and managed to break the record for number of birds counted and species recorded. 4,005 individual birds counted this year surpassed 2004’s 3,717 and thirty-seven species beat 2005’s thirty-six species by one.

Individual records broken this year included wild turkeys, 123 (100 in 2005); mourning doves, 207 (139 in 2004); blue jays, 401 (342 in 2004) and pine grosbeaks, 132 (31 in 2004). All three woodpecker records were surpassed including downy woodpecker, 74 (52 last year); hairy woodpecker, 115 (80 in 2004) and pileated woodpecker, 12 (10 in 2004). Records were tied for sharp-shinned hawks (2) and white-throated sparrows (2). New species listed for the very first time in the count were Cooper’s hawk, grackle and cedar waxwings.

The count circle is centered on Watson’s Corners and covers a 15 km radius. The circle is divided into four equal ‘pieces of the pie’ and each was assigned a team leader, all local residents. Team A led by Bruce LeGallais included Don Brown (Kanata), Don McInerney, Pip Winters, Paul Frigon and Phil Laflamme. Team B led by Roberta Clarke, assisted by John Clarke, included Louis Frenette (Carleton Place), Lynda Bennett, Paul Sprague and Gloria Opzoomer. Team C was led by Claire Fisher and team members were George Fisher, Neil and Lucy Carleton, Jeff Mills, Jim and Yvonne Bendell and Lise Balthazar. Team D, led by Ted Mosquin, included Linda Mosquin and Mark Garbutt. Marjorie Montgomery organized and compiled the feeder counts. Project organizer and compiler was Lanark ERA columnist Cliff Bennett and the event was sponsored by Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN).

The highlight of the day as usual, was the count-in reception. Hosted by Mary Vandenhoff and staff at the Nature Lovers Book Store in Lanark, all members gathered to compare experiences, discuss the results compiled on a chart and enjoy excellent refreshments. In return for the hosting, MVFN will be making a financial contribution to the North Lanark Community Heath Centre.

MVFN wishes to thank and congratulate all participants. Complete results are as follows:

bald eagle 1; sharp-shinned hawk 2; Cooper’s hawk 2; red-tailed hawk 1; rough-legged hawk 2; ruffed grouse 3; wild turkey 123; rock pigeon 198; mourning dove 207; barred owl 2; downy woodpecker 74; hairy woodpecker 115; pileated woodpecker 12; northern shrike 1; blue jay 401; common crow 93; raven 45; chickadee 986; red-breasted nuthatch 20; white-breasted nuthatch 84; golden-crowned kinglet 3; starling 189; cedar waxwing 4′ Bohemian waxwing 90; tree sparrow 51; dark-eyed junco 41; white-throated sparrow 2; snow bunting 179; cardinal 14; common grackle 1; pine grosbeak 132; purple finch 10; house finch 6; common redpoll 466; goldfinch 132; evening grosbeak 288; house sparrow 37.

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