Christmas Bird Counts — Lots of Birders But Few Birds

Birders at the December 19th Christmas Bird Count enjoyed the exceptionally mild weather and excellent access to the Driftwood Cove backcountry.

Pike Bay/Cape Chin CBCs

Submitted by Andrew Keaveney

The 2018 Pike Bay and Cape Chin Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) collectively brought together over 30 participants with over 115 hours spent in the field. Participants attended from Owen Sound, Windsor, Waterloo and Toronto. While it had rained the day before, the two counts were held in favourable weather with a few centimetres of snow on the ground, single digit freezing temperatures and light winds.

In general, feeders were being visited by fewer birds and the woods were quite a bit quieter than average, with participants having to work quite diligently even to find good numbers of our most common residents, Black-capped Chickadees.

What many bird enthusiasts don’t realize is that species we may take for granted as being resident can actually move large distances in search of food resources some years. Nuthatches, jays, chickadees and all of the finches (goldfinches, redpolls, crossbills, grosbeaks) vary greatly in numbers on the Bruce each year and the CBC is a great way to experience this for yourself and help in a ‘citizen science’ capacity by collecting this data.


The Pike Bay CBC saw several new species added to the overall list this year. Mute Swan, White-winged Crossbill and Horned Lark (Count Week). Evening Grosbeak was inexplicably absent on Count Day on the Pike Bay CBC, having been recorded both before and after, but was present at several feeders on the Cape Chin CBC with 132 birds. Several Snowy Owls were encountered over the weekend and one observer recorded over 2,000 Snow Buntings present in the Ferndale Flats area with smaller numbers of Lapland Longspurs mixed in and Northern Shrikes following along, hoping for an easy meal.

A fantastic flock of finches along Dyers Bay Rd. included over 150 Common Redpolls, 22 goldfinches and 1 rare Hoary Redpoll. Waterfowl on the Bruce were very scarce this year so it was great to see that Dyers Bay once again held good numbers of Horned (26) and Red-necked (13) Grebes. This is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA) used in the Spring/Fall seasons as a staging ground. Another significant find by several groups on the Cape Chin CBC was a Belted Kingfisher using an open stream to fish from.

The Pike Bay count recorded 2,467 individuals of 39 species and Cape Chin with 1,747 individuals of 36 species.

Tobermory CBC: Dec 19th

Submitted by Michael Butler
and Trish Stinnissen

A record high number of participants (56) enjoyed exceptionally mild weather and the usual fine camaraderie. Recent thaws had left very little snow cover allowing for excellent access to the backcountry. Indeed, 13 parties logged a remarkable 103 km (61.5 hours) on foot. Despite the increased coverage of the circle area, most parties reported that birds were scarce and feeders were poorly attended. 

Total species: 44 (average=40). 

Total individuals: 1,243 (avg=1,637).

NEW SPECIES: Trumpeter Swan: 1. Karen Connoy photographed a young swan in Eagle Harbour which, after much consultation, was identified to this species. In the frame of one of her swan photos was a Mallard which proved to be the only one encountered on count day  – all waterfowl were scarce.


Bohemian Waxwing: 144. Just shy of 1999’s record high of 148.

Chipping Sparrow: 1. Only the second record for the count (the first was in 2015).

Evening Grosbeak: 104. Only the second occurrence since 2001.


Red-breasted Nuthatch: 14 (average=41), down from last year’s record high of 155.

Blue Jay: 4 (average=41). This is the lowest number tallied since 1975.

Snow Bunting: 1 (average=33).