Slightly more birds spotted

Staff

A total of 2,124 birds, representing 31 species, were spotted during the annual Christmas bird count held here just prior to the holiday season.
That was one more species and a slightly higher number of birds than the 2,020 recorded the previous year.
The 2011 bird count, held Dec. 17, had one feeder watcher and 11 participants in the field, who were split up in five teams.
“Our count lasted from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.,” noted Ilka Milne of the Rainy River Valley Field Naturalist Club, which has carried out the annual count for many years under the auspices of Bird Studies Canada.
“It was a warm and overcast day, and with little snow cover activity at feeders was low,” she recalled.
“With grass still visible in the fields, we hoped we might see some hawks still around but none turned up,” Milne added.
“In spite of apparent small rodent activity and what you might think would be easy hunting conditions for owls, we only saw one,” she reported.
“However, the open water on the river below the dam meant some ducks and geese were present.
“The grey day meant the light was poor for identifying distant waterfowl, but persistence, friendly riverfront owners, and spotting scopes paid off,” Milne said.
Milne added it is better to walk than drive because they often pick up on bird activity by listening.
“Unfortunately, we have few people covering a large circle from the [Noden] Causeway west to Burriss and Devlin, so to cover the sites we know are good for finding birds, we end up doing a lot of driving,” she explained.
“Together, we covered about 480 km by car and another four km on foot.”
With their time limited, they did most of their walking from the car to “a busy feeder, nice stretch of water, or some other site that has piqued a participant’s curiosity.”
“Perhaps it will be a flock that flew over the road, an interesting shape in a distant tree, or a determination to visit all the possible hiding spots for a species we haven’t seen as dusk approaches,” noted Milne.
Among the more common species counted were 356 European starlings, 279 black-capped chickadees, 267 America crows, 212 house sparrows, 179 common ravens, 197 pine grosbeaks, and 112 common redpolls.
Also spotted were 96 mallards, 53 common goldeneyes, 53 bald eagles, 83 evening grosbeaks, 43 blue jays, 35 rock pigeons, 32 black-billed magpies, 32 sharp-tailed grouse, 20 Bohemian waxwings, and 15 hairy woodpeckers.
Rounding out the species were 10 gray jays, eight white-breasted nuthatches, eight downy woodpeckers, six American goldfinches, six ruffed grouse, five Canada geese, four purple finch, two northern shrikes, two snow buntings, two spruce grouse, one owl (species not determined), one black-backed woodpecker, one pileated woodpecker, and one hoary redpoll.
The mystery of the day was: “Where are all the red-breasted nuthatches?” as those “feisty little birds are hard to miss,” said Milne.