Thousands of birds counted during 2022 December 17 Mindemoya bird count

This Carolina Wren was one of 4,213 in total reported by field team members as having been seen during the 55th Gore Bay Christmas bird count.

by Chris Bell

MINDEMOYA—Two thousand two hundred and twenty-seven birds of 41 species were counted on the 49th annual Mindemoya Christmas Bird Count held Saturday, December 17.

The birds were counted by 26 feeder watchers and 18 birders. The species count of 41 was below average for the 49 years and was five below the 46 species last year.

The 15-mile diameter count circle was divided into the usual nine areas with a team in each. One team had two areas. Another group walked the Lake Huron shoreline and reached Timber Bay.

This was another coronavirus year with several restrictions that were observed.

Vivienne Eaton talked with both the Saint Francis Church and the Manitoulin Nature Club and got us out of the weather into the church, both before and after the count. This was a big improvement over the last two years when we had to huddle outside. In the church it was strange to meet up with the birders indoors and all wearing masks! I could not recognize many of them and had to ask them their names!

Everybody was on time.

Three volunteers phoned the feeder watchers and brought their results to the church to add to the birding teams results. We got a start on the tally but I had to finish it at home, some days later.

The autumn had been very mild but the bird population was very low. The count of 2,270 birds was well below the 3,761 last year and below the 49-year average of 2,977. Numbers were down in most families of birds this year.

The most uncommon birds seen this year were two American coots at Hare’s Creek. The only previous sightings had been three single birds.
Other uncommon birds seen this year included eight ring-billed gulls; two, or possibly three sharp-shinned hawks hunting at bird feeders; three northern shrikes; our seventh brown thrasher and house sparrows. House sparrows are very hard to find on this count.

Most numerous birds this year were the 415 black-capped chickadees, 290 common mergansers, 284 mallard and 146 European starlings.
The bald eagle count of 20 birds was lower this year. No owls were reported on count day and there have been no snowy owl reports this winter.

The larger lakes and bays were mainly wide open or had fresh thin ice and even some of the smaller lakes were still ice free until the day before the count, but by the morning of count day the ring-necked duck and red-necked grebe had gone.

Count day began at -5°C, rising to 0° and was calm. Snow cover was shallow.

Apart from 120 American goldfinches and 34 evening grosbeaks, other finches were in very low numbers with no crossbills, hoary redpolls or pine siskins.

Common grackles were the only blackbirds this year.

We had nine tree sparrows and seven dark-eyed juncos, but no unusual sparrows this year. More sparrows and blackbirds had been expected after a mild autumn but climate changes did not increase wintering bird numbers.

The 40 cardinals was the highest since the count of 52 in 2010.

The 26 feeder watchers reported fewer species than on previous counts. Only three of the them reported 10 or more species with Tracy Vyse reporting 10 species, Lyn Thompson 11 species and Charlie Cox an impressive 17 species.

Here is the full list of the birds: 14 Canada geese; two black duck; 284 mallard; 49 common goldeneye; five hooded merganser; 290 common merganser; four ring-necked pheasant; six ruffed grouse; 28 sharp-tailed grouse; 85 rock pigeon; 89 mourning dove; two American coot; eight ring-billed gull; 77 herring gull; two sharp-shinned hawk; 20 bald eagle; 11 red-bellied woodpecker; 22 downy woodpecker; 36 hairy woodpecker; 14 pileated woodpecker; three northern shrike; 113 blue jay; 65 American crow; 118 common raven; 415 black-capped chickadee; 21 red-breasted nuthatch; 26 white-breasted nuthatch; one brown thrasher; 146 European starling; 17 bohemian waxwing; six house sparrow; 34 evening grosbeak; seven pine grosbeak; two purple finch; four common redpoll; 120 American goldfinch; 61 snow bunting; nine American tree sparrow; seven dark-eyed junco; seven common grackle; and 40 northern cardinal.