by Iain Wilkes
On December 27th local birders took part in the Audubon Society’s 116th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) supported within Canada by Bird Studies Canada, and sponsored locally by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). Audubon’s CBC is composed of over 2300 defined areas across North America where thousands of citizen scientists each year volunteer their time to record every bird within an area on one specific day between December 14th and January 5th. The center of the bridge over the Mississippi River in Carleton Place defines the center of a 12 km radius circle within which all species and individuals are recorded. The resultant data is provided to Audubon for research into changing species populations and locations and it is an essential element in conservation plans and habitat protection across our continent.
Despite the freezing rain, sleet and snow 41 field volunteers and 22 feeder observers spent Sunday, December 27th participating in the Carleton Place CBC. At first look the 6700 individual birds and 47 species of birds recorded appear to indicate an average year for our CBC day, but it was anything but average. The mild weather that continued into late 2015 brought with it species that are usually long gone south as well as two new species for our area. Record flocks of Canada Geese continued in our area both in the corn fields and on the river with a total of 1801 individuals. Within one flock was a single Snow Goose, not unusual during spring and fall migration, but one has never been seen before on count day. As well two Sandhill Crane were found in a corn field west of Ashton, another new species for the day. Record numbers of Bald Eagle (6), Bufflehead (2), Pileated Woodpecker (16), Hooded Mergansers (13), Mallards (59) as well as Dark-eyed Juncos (275) were found during the day.
Notable once again this year and in common with other southern Ontario count areas, was the near complete absence of northern birds, including very low numbers of Redpolls, Siskins, and Snow Buntings as well as no Pine Grosbeak or Golden-crowned Kinglets. The numbers of raptors other than the Bald Eagles were also low with only 1 Great-horned Owl reported.
Many thanks go to all of the volunteers who make this important conservation program successful and to the MVFN social committee, who organized the food and refreshments at the end of the day in the community room where the tired field volunteers arrived to have their data recorded and trade stories of their day. The Carleton Place CBC is organized by Iain Wilkes and supported by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists club, which also sponsors the Lanark Highlands and Rideau Ferry Christmas bird counts. A data table of birds for the Carleton Place Christmas bird count is posted at mvfn.ca.
Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2016!