Submitted by: Cliff Bennett
January 2, 2005
The 2nd Annual Watson’s Corners Audubon Christmas Bird Count, held on Thursday, Dec. 30, yielded an unprecedented twelve great gray owls, indicating a major invasion of these large northern-breeding raptors. The local results mirror similar tallies all across Ontario, probably due to a collapse of the owls’ favourite rodent source of food in the northern boreal regions.
The Watson’s Corners count area includes a circle centred at Watson’s Corners and taking in every space within a fifteen mile circumference. Twenty-four participants in eleven different search parties, took to the field to count every bird they could hear or see. As well, the count included birds recorded by ten different feeder watchers.The results tallied showed 3716 individual birds included in 20 different species, a significant increase from the first year ‘s count of 2833 birds and 20 species.
Highlights of this year’s count, aside from the great grays, were one snowy owl in the Balderson area, one common loon on the Mississippi River and three gray partridge. High counts were registered for (brackets show 2003 numbers) rock pigeons 220 (72), blue jays 342 (76) and chickadees 1162 (572), while low counts showed crows 98 (143), starlings 61 (349), common redpoll 269 (698) and evening grosbeaks 80 (387). Species not seen this year included barred owls, hoary redpolls, rough-legged hawks, bald eagle, common mergansers, red-tailed hawks and golden-crowned kinglets. Aside from the owls, raptors were very scarce. Only two sharp-shinned hawks were reported but one goshawk and one bald eagle were reported during the count week.
The count area was divided into four sections, each with a team leader. Leaders included Bruce LeGallais, Hopetown section, Bobby Clarke, Lanark Village section, Claire Fisher, McDonald Corners section and Ted Mosquin, Poland Section. Marj Montgomery coordinated the feeder counts. Organizer and compiler was Cliff Bennett.
At the end of the day, observers gathered at the Nature Lovers Book Store in Lanark to enter results on the master chart and enjoy refreshments, provided by members of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Foundation. On behalf of the Count sponsor, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, Cliff Bennett thanked all of the participants and announced the date of the 3rd Annual 2005 Watson’s Corners Christmas Bird Count, to be held on Friday, Dec. 30.