by Neil Carleton
You may have seen some of them on December 30th if you were traveling within a fifteen kilometer radius of Watson’s Corners. They were easy to spot in slow moving vehicles, or stopped and standing all bundled up along the concession roads. With binoculars in every pair of hands, there was no mistaking that the 2013 Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count (LHCBC) was underway.
Sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), the 11th annual LHCBC attracted many volunteers to look and listen for, then list every bird they observed and heard. Marilyn Barnett was the count coordinator. For count results, or to volunteer for next year, she can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The cold sharp wind was compensated by a sunny sky and the fun of contributing as a citizen scientist. The annual bird count in the Lanark Highlands is one of several thousand held across North and South America. All records are kept by the Audubon Society for research and conservation programs.
Everyone met later that day in Lanark, at Legion Branch 395, to submit their counts. As the results were being compiled by Howard Robinson on his laptop, and projected on a screen, it was announced that door prizes had been donated. Lise Balthazar, one of the four section leaders, generously contributed four birding books. Names were drawn, and each book went to a good home.
Complete Birds of North America was one of the door prizes. This outstanding National Geographic publication has now been catalogued – 598.2971 Nat – at the Almonte branch of the Mississippi Mills Library. It’s on display at the new book section, opposite the circulation desk, and ready to sign out. Here’s an on-line description from the National Geographic Store.
“Essential, comprehensive, and easy to use … an astonishing resource that covers every bird species in North America, as well as all the migrants that fly through.”
“Perfect for novice or experienced birders alike … a definitive, must-have resource. Quite simply, there is no other volume like it.”
The black headed grosbeak from the Pacific coast, sighted at a Cedar Hill feeder in December 2003, is illustrated on page 601. The range map shows that this was indeed a rare sighting in Mississippi Mills.
This winter another rare visitor from the west was observed locally. The varied thrush, page 492-3, which breeds from Alaska to California in high elevation conifer forests, turned up at a Bennie’s Corners feeder.
Snowy owls, page 326, are making news this month all over eastern Ontario. The influx of these northern hunters, which nest in the Arctic tundra, is the largest in forty years.
If you spot a bird at your backyard feed, or during a hike in Lanark County, you’ll find it in Complete Birds of North America. If you return home with a photo from travels farther afield on the continent, this great book will help you to identify your avian observation.