Monday, December 18, 2006

Presqu'ile CBC

Yesterday was the Presqu'ile Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

I guess I'm a floating counter for sure now. When the Belleville compiler (boss of the count) called me this year, he invited me to take part in two counts, Belleville and Presqu'ile. The Presqu'ile count centres in the park, I'm guessing, and the east side of the circle (this part I know) takes in at least part of Trenton (aka Quinte West), a town on the shores of Lake Ontario immediately to the west of Belleville. (Here's a link to the weekly Presqu'ile birding report.)

So dark and early Sunday morning I headed down to meet (for the first time) my partner Jim, a very experienced birder, to make the rounds of a little piece of Trenton. I'd been watching the weather forecasts all week--half of them called for rain on Sunday, but as it turned out it was partly cloudy and very warm, high +12C.

The great things about a warm weather CBC: it's not too cold; ponds are open and ducks are on them; short-distant migrants might be hanging around out of season....did I say, "it's not too cold"?

The bad things: no birds at feeders, or in large groups at other sources of food or shelter; the living is easy, food is plentiful, and the need to eat isn't as great as it is when it's cold, in other words, birds are loosely flocked, widely dispersed, not sitting around waiting to be counted; oh, yes, and you have to watch out for the golfers if you're birding a golf course--this is not usually a problem on December 17 in southern Ontario. There were 8 parties of golfers on the small course we birded--At one point, after we let the guys behind us play through, we were focused on the edge, a steep, shrubby bank going down to a railway line, looking for birds. When we turned around there were two balls on the course just behind us, driven there by players we hadn't noticed sneaking up. On the other hand we had some very good looks at a Merlin on that golf course.

We saw lots and lots of chickadees, and some other good birds (list below), but it wasn't all birds all the time. Our route took us to the top of a drumlin (great view of the lake and the town). The summit was accessible by stairs, and as we were climbing we noticed that a couple of crows were kicking up a terrible fuss on the other side of the parking lot below, behind some kind of big tank. We watched for a bit, then decided we better go back down and try to see what had them so upset. Just as we started down a red fox trotted out from behind the tank and down the hill into town. The crows quieted immediately. Who knew crows had a thing about foxes? Ummm, I have a feeling that I have heard something about this. Gotta love Google. See Aesop's The Fox and the Crow. Now I understand.

The twenty-seven species Jim and I counted for the Presqu'ile CBC, mostly inland (unofficial):

House Sparrow 24
Double-crested Cormorant 8
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Common Merganser 20
Hooded Merganser 5
Great Blue Heron 1
American Crow 17
Black-capped Chickadee 88
American Goldfinch 21
Ring-billed Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 6
European Starling 122
House Finch 18
Blue Jay 15
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Ruffed Grouse 1
Downy Woodpecker 3
Mourning Dove 31
Slate-coloured Junco 6
Merlin 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Cedar Waxwing 3
American Robin 8
Mallard Duck 6
American Tree Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 3

For more about Christmas Bird Counting in Canada, see this page at Bird Studies Canada, or for the rest of North America, this one at Audubon.

And here's a sampling of current CBC blog posts: A DC Birding Blog, 10,000 Birds, Stokes Birding Blog, Search and Serendipity, Bootstrap Analysis, SitkaNature. I wrote about counting for Belleville last year here.


John B. said...

I think that I prefer too warm over too cold for a bird count, even if the numbers get a little skewed. It is difficult to count birds when my eyes start tearing every time I look through the binoculars!

Pamela Martin said...

By the end of the day my glasses were steaming up whenever I tried to look through my binoculars. Tearing of course makes it hard to see too! But a crisp, windless, sunny cold day can be excellent for being outside. The Belleville count is on the 30th; who knows what the weather will be like then!!