by Terry Land
GORE BAY – The 54th Gore Bay Christmas bird count, the second COVID-19 pandemic bird count, was held on Sunday, December 19.
Just before 8 am, 13 field team members, arrayed over six teams, picked up their reporting packages at the end of Terry Land’s driveway in Gore Bay and set out on their COVID-19- constrained hunt within the group’s 24-kilometre diameter circle to list every species seen and to count every individual bird.
The weather conditions, in many ways, were ideal for a successful count: the morning temperature hovered around minus 11 degrees Celsius with light winds from the northeast at 17 kilometres per hour. Visibility was, as a pilot may say, severe and clear, with only variable light clouds. The snow on the ground varied from being essentially non-existent to no more than three centimetres. The water was calm enough and the temperature cold enough that the open areas of water were making ice.
As the day progressed, the temperature rose to about minus six degrees Celsius. The winds picked up slightly, but really could not be considered a factor during the count.
Between 3:30 pm and 4:30 pm, the field teams returned to the end of the Lands’ driveway to deposit the results of their efforts. A total of 42 species were observed with 3,024 individual birds seen.
Meanwhile, the 36 feeder watcher households were beginning to report in. In these pandemic times, pandemic these were essential in providing a more complete snapshot of the birds within the count circle on count day. They counted 30 different species, comprised of 1,305 individual birds.
When all the information was analyzed, the 54th Gore Bay Christmas Bird count resulted in a total of 46 species of birds and 4,329 individuals counted.
During the count week (officially defined as the three days before and three days after the count day) three more species of birds were seen and recorded for informational purposes only but were added into the count-day tally. These birds were one gadwall, one great blue heron and one Snowy Owl. Within the open water area, within the count circle, there were four Canada geese counted as well as seven species of ducks, which meant there was a total of 1,580 individual ducks with the common goldeneye being the most numerous with 1,017.
Other sightings of interest were one double-crested cormorant on Lake Wolsey, 49 bald eagles, 17 rough-legged hawks, one american kestrel near the Northland Agromart, over 500 blue jays and black-capped chickadees each, one belted kingfisher hanging around Bickell’s Creek in Gore Bay and an american robin, also seen in Gore Bay.
The total of 46 species seems like an average total as determined by a review of the recent historical records, but the total must be considered in perspective.
Of concern with this total is the fact that if the North Channel and Lake Wolsey had been frozen most of the duck species would likely have been gone. At least 15 species were counted that had fewer than five individuals. That could easily have had a significant impact on the count results.
The full list of the birds was as follows: four Canada geese, two black ducks, 77 mallard ducks, one gadwall, six buffleheads, 1,017 goldeneyes, 41 hooded mergansers, 41 common mergansers, one red-breasted merg, two pheasants, 10 ruffed grouse, 58 sharp-tailed grouse, two cormorants, 41 bald eagles, one red-tailed hawk, 17 rough-legged hawks, 126 herring gulls, 57 rock pigeons, 67 mourning doves, one kingfisher, 16 red-bellied woodpeckers, 31 downy woodpeckers, 49 hairy woodpeckers, nine pileated woodpeckers, one kestrel, three northern shrikes, 505 blue jays, 107 crows, 132 ravens, 18 horned larks, 528 black capped chickadees, 28 red-breasted nuthatches, 36 white breasted nuthatches, two golden-cr. kinglets, one robin, 179 starlings, one lapland longspur, 10 snow buntings, 16 tree sparrows, two juncos, 17 cardinals, one redwing, one grackle, 74 pine grosbeaks, 94 common redpolls, 455 American goldfinches, and 47 house sparrows.
As complier of the count, I wish to thank my long-suffering spouse who provided valuable assistance in tabulating the results, the field team observers and the feeder watchers for their enthusiasm in taking part.
Thank-you everyone. Happy New Year and have a great year of birding.
Terry Lane, Compiler of the 54th Gore Bay Christmas bird count.