Bird count records strong numbers

Staff

A total of 30 species, and 1,663 birds, were counted during the annual Christmas Bird Count that took place here Jan. 2.
“This is a good result,” noted local count co-ordinator Ilke Milne. “In the 14 years of the Fort Frances Christmas Bird Count, we’ve had between 24 and 33 species on count day and from 987 to 3,034 birds.”
There were some interesting results this year, she added, including a count of 11 Pileated Woodpeckers—the greatest number since the Fort Frances count began in 1995.
“Pileated Woodpeckers bore huge holes in dead and dying trees in search of their favourite food: carpenter ants,” Milne explained. “In general, all the woodpecker species’ numbers were strong this year, yet both Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch numbers were ordinary.”
The previous record number of Pileated Woodpeckers seen here was seven back in 2005, said Milne, adding two or three typically is the number seen on past count days.
“The Biddeson Creek area continues to be a hotspot for interesting birds, this year yielding the Northern Cardinal and Dark-eyed Junco,” Milne continued. “On Boxing Day, an American Robin was seen in the area but missed on count day.”
For the second time in the count’s history, three Northern Cardinals were recorded (first counted in 2006), as well as three Boreal Chickadees (first counted in 2005).
“Boreal Chickadees live here year-round and are common in coniferous forests in the area, but are much more secretive than the Black-capped Chickadee commonly seen at feeders,” Milne explained.
Finch species like the Common Redpoll, American Goldfinch, Grosbeaks, and Pine Siskins were abundant this year because of the cold weather and deep snow that have made bird feeders popular feeding spots, Milne added.
“Area birdwatchers are advised to keep an eye on the Common Redpoll flocks coming to their feeders,” she remarked. “In the past week, Hoary Redpolls, a closely-related Arctic species, have been spotted among the Common Redpolls.
“They are similarly marked but are much paler, having an unmarked white rump with no brown streaks.”
But while there were high numbers in these birds, no owls or hawks were counted this year, Milne noted, although Boreal Owls and Snowy Owls have been spotted so far this winter.
As well, a sharp-shinned hawk was observed between Christmas and New Year’s Day hunting Pine Grosbeak at an area feeder.
For this year’s bird count, there were nine people who made up three teams in the field—Henry Miller, Ahlan Johanson, Henry Van Ael, Adam Van Ael, Ryan Porteous, Henriette Verhoef, Dan Vos, Doug Veldhuisen, and Milne.
Together they racked up more than 20 hours and covered 381 km, Milne noted.
There also were four “feeder watchers” for the day (Kim Roy, Lyle Hyatt, Mike Pearson, and Arthur Van Ael), who put in a combined total of 14 hours and spotted the day’s “most interesting birds,” she added.
“We were fortunate to complete our count on this day [Jan. 2] as we had snowstorms the day before and the day after,” Milne continued. “It was sunny and fairly calm but it was a cold day, starting out at minus-29 C and only warming up to minus-20 C.”
Here is the total number of birds counted here:
Common Goldeneye—32
Common Merganser—7
Bald Eagle—12
Spruce Grouse—1
Sharp-tailed Grouse—7
Rock Pigeon—86
Mourning Dove—2
Downy Woodpecker—19
Hairy Woodpecker—22
Pileated Woodpecker—11
Gray Jay—6
Blue Jay—30
Black-billed Magpie—14
American Crow—60
Common Raven—250
Black-capped Chickadee—189
Boreal Chickadee—3
Red-breasted Nuthatch—6
White-breasted Nuthatch—10
European Starling—252
Northern Cardinal—3
Dark-eyed Junco—1
Snow Bunting—58
Pine Grosbeak—209
Purple Finch—1
Common Redpoll—172
Pine Siskin—34
American Goldfinch—32
Evening Grosbeak—68
House Sparrow—66