Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee

Monday, 18 December 2017

Another Rondeau/Blenheim CBC now in the books

The Blenheim/Rondeau Christmas Bird Count has been going ever since 1939, making it one of the oldest continuing counts in Ontario. The most recent one, held yesterday, marks the 79th one.  Over the years we have tallied 190 species. An average count results in around 100 species, with high counts of 115 species achieved on several occasions. Weather, whether it be that of the day or the of the previous week or two, will be deciding factors. In 2017, both were factors, as in spite of the lingering autumn weather, the snow and cold of the last week caused several species of waterfowl, for example, to leave the area. On the day of the count itself, the brisk to strong east winds caused some birds to take cover and it made it difficult to hear the birds chipping in the undergrowth. So we missed some that were likely around, but overall the results were not too bad. We came up just shy of the 100 mark, but we did add a new species. The Townsend's Warbler that was first discovered in the area on Nov 11 remained to be counted marking the first time this western species has been recorded on a Christmas Bird Count in Ontario.
A November shot
The area that I normally cover is at the very south end of the park, including the south beach. This year Josh Pickering came along with me. It is often wild and windy there, with lots of wave action. The brisk easterly winds resulted in waves which not only made hearing birds difficult, it also made the shoreline difficult to walk along, so we had to walk inland a bit, in some cases thrashing our way through Phragmites, shrubbery and even fallen trees.

Josh's much better hearing enabled us to pin point some 'chip' notes from the tangles, which we could then search and come up with an identification of.

By far the most common bird we saw was Red-breasted Merganser.

Out on the ice of the bay and marsh we counted 5 Snowy Owls. It was tempting to go out on the ice to get a closer look at an open spot at the south end of the bay, where geese, swans and gulls were resting, but in spite of the cold weather, the ice was only a few centimetres thick. The snow on the ice kept it from getting thicker, and we broke through readily, nixing that option.

After our south beach trek of about 8 km round trip, we stopped at the Visitor Centre for a rest, a snack and to watch the feeder. An Eastern Towhee put in an appearance, feeding on seeds below the feeders....

 ...or hanging out more photogenically in the shrubbery nearby.
 A Common Grackle was in the vicinity.
 At least one Tufted Titmouse was around. They have definitely become more numerous in the last few years..... have Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
 Tis the Christmas season, so sharing is good.

Unfortunately the Brown Thrasher which was seen in the feeder area the day before, was not noticed on count day.

Fox Sparrows were noted along the roadsides.
Although we didn't see any Pileated Woodpeckers in our area, other people did in theirs. Some years the spot on the tally sheet for this species is blank, so it is nice to have this resident species accounted for.
The Wilson's Snipe is not always a guarantee to be seen, even when we know it is around. Fortunately one group stopped by the appointed location and saw it.

All in all, it was a good day in spite of the weather. Every year is different. At least it wasn't raining, or snowing so hard that visibility was quite limited, both conditions which have been experienced on previous counts.

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