Mindemoya Christmas Bird Count marks almost 3,000 birds

Cardinal photography by John Savage

MANITOULIN—Two thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine birds of 49 species were counted on the 44th annual Mindemoya Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 16.

A chipping sparrow, identified by Willy Maenpaa at his feeders in Providence Bay, was new for the Mindemoya count. Unusual birds for this time of year included two Canada geese in West Bay, a robin and a brown creeper. A sharp-shinned hawk hit a window and unfortunately died. A small flock of white-winged crossbills was found north of Providence Bay.

Most numerous birds this year were the 486 American goldfinches, 420 black-capped chickadees, 295 common ravens and 294 American crows.

Twenty-eight feeder watchers, including three new volunteers, took part this year. There were 27 birders, including four new recruits in 11 groups.

Snow the day before the count resulted in about 25 centimetres underfoot on count day, but several of the back roads were drivable and snowshoes were not needed. The south shoreline hike went ahead.

A few days before count day temperatures had plunged. Several big lakes froze over, most ducks went south and the bird list was reduced. It was our first count without common goldeneye ducks and we saw no red-necked grebes. Very few gulls were seen.

Several flocks of sharp-tailed grouse were spotted with the total of 26 a count record. Ruffed grouse are also doing well, equaling the record of 24. The recent freeze-up attracted many bald eagles and an above-average 32 were counted.

There had been several snowy owl sightings and one bird was seen on the count. As well, a barred owl was heard.

This Boreal owl was spotted in Tehkummah on Christmas Day.
photo by Joshua Reckman

Red-bellied woodpeckers, a southern Ontario species, moved into bird feeders this fall and 28 were seen on this year’s count, easily beating the previous best count of 17. Sixteen of the 27 feeder watchers reported single, or in two cases two of these handsome woodpeckers. This was a significant increase and it will be interesting to see how many are seen next year.

Blue jay numbers at 224 were a just a little below average. Cardinals were seen at only seven of the 27 feeders and the total of 13 was the lowest since 2002. The wet summer may be part of the reason, but the species appears to have been declining from the high of 52 in the year 2010.

Very few finches were seen in the fall but in December, American goldfinches arrived and large numbers were counted. Also arriving late were pine siskins and common redpolls but very few of these had reached the birdfeeders. Purple finches were common the previous winter but were scarce this year. Neither grosbeak was reported.

Feeder watchers reported several tree sparrows, nine juncos, four red-winged blackbirds and two grackles—all hard to find birds in winter. There were several outstanding bird feeders this year and eight feeder watchers reported 12 or more bird species. Charlie Cox, with established birdfeeders, but newly signed up as a feeder watcher, reported 14 species and gets the 2017 Feeder Watcher Award.

The Mindemoya Christmas Bird Count is a project of the National Audubon Society and the Manitoulin Nature Club.

Here is the full list of birds seen: 2 Canada goose; 15 black duck; 76 mallard; 17 long-tailed duck; 1 bufflehead; 11 common merganser; 4 red-breasted merganser; 34 ring-necked pheasant; 24 ruffed grouse; 26 sharp-tailed grouse; 32 bald eagle; 1 sharp-shinned hawk; 1 red-tailed hawk; 3 rough-legged hawk; 4 ring-billed gull; 5 herring gull; 62 rock pigeon; 141 mourning dove; 1 snowy owl; 1 barred owl; 28 red-bellied woodpecker; 35 downy woodpecker; 42 hairy woodpecker; 6 pileated woodpecker; 2 northern shrike; 224 blue jay; 294 American crow; 295 common raven; 39 horned lark; 420 black-capped chickadee; 26 red-breasted nuthatch; 46 white-breasted nuthatch; 1 brown creeper; 6 golden-crowned kinglets; 1 American robin; 127 European Starling; 64 snow bunting; 14 American tree sparrow; 1 chipping sparrow; 9 dark-eyed junco; 13 northern cardinal; 4 red-winged blackbird; 2 common grackle; 2 purple finch; 4 white-winged crossbill; 80 common redpoll; 51 pine siskin; 486 American goldfinch; and 6 house sparrows.