Mindemoya Christmas bird count No. 40 on December 14

MANITOULIN—This upcoming Mindemoya Christmas bird count on Saturday, December 14 will mark the 40th annual count.

The count was started in 1974 in order to survey winter birds in Central Manitoulin. The Gore Bay count had started in 1968 and it was thought that we could recruit enough volunteers to do a second Island count. The Mindemoya count was started by a group of naturalists from the Mindemoya area—who went on to found the Manitoulin Nature Club—assisted by veterans of the Gore Bay count. On that first count nine participants counted 2,007 birds of 37 different species. Enough participants had been recruited to make it a success and the count has continued annually ever since, with more people finding more birds. We had two feeder watchers on the first count but the feeder watcher program really got underway in the mid-1980s.

The National Audubon Society, which has run counts throughout North America since 1901, require the count date to be on or after December 14. We have the Island counts on the earliest allowed weekend in order to increase the chances of getting some open water for ducks and other water birds.

There are usually about 35 feeder watchers as well as about 22 birders who travel in nine assigned areas to check for birds throughout the 15-mile diameter count circle.

This year, being the 40th count, we are trying to sign up record numbers of participants and find record numbers of birds. The numbers to beat are 42 feeder watchers in 2000, 29 birders in the field in 2007, 58 species of birds in 1994 and 1998, and 5,244 individual birds in 2000.

One hundred and twenty-four species of birds have been recorded here over the years including a rare Townsend’s solitaire in 2011.

There have been several changes in 40 years in the wintering bird population. Birds that have increased include pheasants, bald eagles, mourning doves, red-bellied woodpeckers, cardinals and American goldfinches. Some of these changes may be attributed to the increase in the number of bird feeders. Birds that have decreased include Brewer’s blackbirds, cowbirds, evening grosbeaks and house sparrows. Long-tailed duck and house finch numbers went up for a few years, but now have dropped.

To take part in the Christmas count phone Chris Bell at 705-368-3410 to register. Birders will be asked to keep a count of the birds seen at your feeder and in your yard that day and if you’re not sure as to the type of bird, that’s okay too. Mr. Bell and other bird enthusiasts are more than happy to help.

The annual count is run by the Manitoulin Nature Club.

Chris Bell, bird counter compiler 1974 to 2013