Snowy Owl near Ferndale by Brian Keaveney

Tobermory CBC

Submitted by Michael Butler

Forty-five intrepid birders participated in the 47th annual Tobermory Christmas Bird Count on December 18th, 2019. 

Minimal snow cover allowed for better than usual coverage of backcountry areas; however, the weather was less favourable. Bracing northwest winds gusting to 63 km/hr combined with -8° to -12° C temperatures to create a wind chill of -24° C. Inland lakes were frozen but streams and coastal waters were largely free of ice.

Our birders reported the customary good camaraderie but much lower than average number of species observed (29; the average is 40) and overall numbers (1,033 birds; average is 1,624). The species count of 29 was the lowest recorded since 1983.

Birders (Ethan and Dianne Meleg) participating on the Tobermory CBC by Arni Stinnissen

No new species were observed but at 124, the Blue Jay count was a record high (average is 41; only 4 seen in 2018!) A single Horned Lark seen on McArthur Road was an excellent find (seen on only three previous counts). The European Starling was absent for the second year running and only the third count ever (average is 27). Also absent was White-breasted Nuthatch. 

The weather mellowed in the days following the count and some fine birds made it onto the count week tally including Harlequin Duck, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Northern Shrike and American Tree Sparrow. The Harlequin Duck, seen again in Big Tub on Christmas Eve, was the first observed since 2003 and only the fourth ever on the count.

Many thanks to all who participated in the count or helped out with preparation and clean-up of the delicious breakfast and dinner. Thanks as well to Bill and Judy Caulfeild-Browne for again hosting a cozy and tasty pre-count gathering on Tuesday. We’re also grateful to Tim Elitharp and Dave Kerlina who opened their home to overnight guests from away. 

The 48th Tobermory Christmas Bird Count will take place on Wednesday, December 16th, 2020.

All the best in the 2020!

Cape Chin and Pike Bay CBCs

Submitted by Andrew Keaveney

Cape Chin CBC — Dec. 28th, 2019

This was the 4th year in the count’s history. There were six field observers and one feeder watcher. Temperatures throughout the day stayed around 1° celsius, with mild wind and virtually no snow on the ground, cloudy and partly clear skies with no precipitation. Georgian Bay was of course open, as were rivers and any moving water but interior ponds were frozen.

Harlequin Duck in Tobermory by Arni Stinnissen

35 Count Day species were reported and a further 2 Count Week species brings the total to 37. A total of 1512 birds were seen in all. Unusual birds were 12 Cedar Waxwing (new to count), 1 American Kestrel. Record high numbers of Ruffed Grouse (20), Wild Turkey (66), Common Loon (2), and Rock/Feral Pigeon (95) were noted. Record low numbers of Herring Gull (1) — probably all went to Lion’s Head harbour!

Pike Bay CBC — Dec. 29th, 2019

This was the 6th year for the Pike Bay count. Ten field observers participated along with 6 feeder watchers. Temperatures were similar to the Cape Chin count the day before but light freezing rain and wind gusts started slightly after 10a.m. and picked up into an all out rain event in the afternoon so observers found fewer birds on Count Day than would have been expected (and because many of us retreated to the warmth of our homes).

Lake Huron’s inner bays were mostly open this year but for whatever reason waterfowl were still few and far between and most of our sightings came from the Georgian Bay area of the bird count circle

35 Count Day species (identical to the Cape Chin CBC) were reported and a whopping 8 more Count Week species followed, many of which would have been observed on Count Day had it not been for the difficult weather conditions for observations. 2,287 birds were seen.

Unusual birds were 45 Cedar Waxwings (new to this count as well!), 1 Song Sparrow, and a rather incredible sighting of over 200 dabbling ducks consisting of mostly Mallards, a dozen American Black Ducks and a lone male Green-winged Teal was made even more miraculous when an adult gray morph Gyrfalcon (a large falcon of the Canadian arctic that only rarely visits southern Ontario) swooped in and was witnessed hunting the ducks for over a half hour – something the coordinator had never observed on the peninsula before and will surely be a highlight of these bird counts for many years to come.

Bald Eagle near Gauley’s Bay by Michael Butler

Unusual species observed during Count Week included a Common Grackle, a Harlequin Duck, and a Jaeger (the latter two very rarely observed on the Peninsula).

There were record high numbers of American Goldfinch (334), American Crow (503), Mourning Dove (33), Mallard (205) and American Black Duck (14). There were record low numbers of Wild Turkey (1), Rock/Feral Pigeon (6), Common Raven (10).

*some of the species missed on both counts that are expected to occur are Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, American Robin and House Sparrow.