Fewer birds counted here But four new species recorded

The annual Christmas Bird Count for Rainy River District was held Monday and although the numbers were low, four species never counted here before were sighted.
“Spotting some new species was quite interesting,” noted Ilka Milne, Northwestern Ontario program manager with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Milne said the species were boreal chickadees (four), lesser scaups (26), cormorant (one), and cedar waxwings (12).
She added the group also recorded a high number of woodpeckers—17 downy, 16 hairy, and seven pileated. “The most pileated woodpeckers we’ve ever counted before was four,” Milne noted.
Forty-five black-billed magpies were spotted, when only two were recorded last year, as well as 23 white-breasted nut hatches and 17 red-breasted nut hatches were recorded highs.
“But the total number of birds were down,” Milne added, noting the unofficial count was 1,493 birds. “Especially in town. We had two people counting there and they usually bring in high numbers, but not this year.”
For instance, 562 common redpolls were sighted last year, with just 12 seen on Monday.
“They move around a lot to find the best feed source, which was likely not here this year,” Milne said, referring to a possible reason for the fluctuation.
She also said local nature enthusiast Henry Miller has received calls from people asking where all the birds are.
“And we discovered that, in fact, there are less this year,” she said, adding that surprised her especially considering the number of eyes out looking for birds.
Twenty participants divided into six teams surveyed the bird count area—24 km in any direction from the junction of Highway 611 North and Frog Creek Road.
“It was the most field participation we’ve ever had,” Milne said, adding others helped by simply counting birds at their home feeders.
“We also had a lot of newcomers who plan to participate again next year,” she enthused.
Milne said everyone has fun participating, but that the count also helps scientists develop important data, which aids in determining significant information about bird population trends.
And you don’t have to be an experienced bird-watcher to take part.
“You take a bird book with you and we put the experienced people with the inexperienced so they can learn,” Milne explained. “It’s also wonderful for those who are into birding who might be new to the district to get to know where the hots spots are.”
The Christmas Bird Count originally was scheduled to take place Dec. 17 but was postponed until Jan. 2 after Milne’s flight from Toronto was cancelled.
“I think it was more favorable to have it when we did,” she noted. “People seem to find it easier to get out after Christmas instead of before.”
And, fortunately, Mother Nature co-operated this year, she added.
The Christmas Bird Count is a day for the Rainy River Valley Field Naturalists and local bird-watchers in Fort Frances and the surrounding areas, including Couchiching, Alberton, Devlin, and Burriss, to participate in the 106th year of the event in North America.
This marked the 11th-consecutive year for the event here.
Participants also included Bill Morgenstern, Nell Laur, Ahlan Johansen, Dan Vos, Lauren Miller, Christina Empey, Leanne and Justin Donaldson, Cory Kaufman, Curtis Hill, Shelley and Ethan Jordbro, Henry, Arthur, and Adam Van Ael, Pam Hawley, John Rafferty, and Ryan Kaemingh.
More than 2,000 individual counts were scheduled to take place across the Americas from Dec. 14-Jan. 5, with more than 360 in Canada.
As of Tuesday, 309 counts were recorded on the website, totalling 14,823,992 birds.

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