Sunday 19 December 2021

Christmas Bird Counts 2021

Time for my annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) blog post, which shrinks in content and length every year since I hardly carry a camera anymore...that's why I have friends who take pictures! 

I arrived in London late Friday night, and was up early the next morning for the London CBC. This is my fifth year doing this count, and my route covers about a 5km stretch along the river. Some years it can be dynamite, but others, like this year, it can be quite poor.

It was so poor in fact that I got my lowest species total ever on this route with 28 (average 32), and lowest individual total with 323 (average 685). Averages are only based on five years of data, but still...

Highlights? Not much! A couple Winter Wrens, nine Swamp Sparrows, and 47 Northern Cardinals were all nice. Lots of misses though. I did add Great Blue Heron to my all time list for this route. 

eBird checklist here:

Today I got to do a slightly more exciting count, the Rondeau/Blenheim CBC. This is my sixth year doing this count. This time around, I was joined by Nathan Hood and Ezra Campanelli. 

We started with a lakewatch at the VC beach access (which apparently is beach #10, never noticed the number before). It was slow at first, but quickly picked up. Highlights were Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, and lots of Red-breasted Mergansers. Took a bit for the loons to start, but ended up with 47 Red-throateds and a Common. Although I guess the place to be was off South Point because Blake had 217 Red-throats! I'm happy though, my perfect streak for Red-throated Loon on this count continues!

Eventually we had to pry ourselves away from the lake, and begin walking up Lakeshore towards the campground. Lots of redpolls around (we ended up with 95, a new Rondeau bird for me). Tufted Titmouse and several Carolina Wrens were real treats for me, having not seen either in months. A Fox Sparrow that was pished in was another real highlight for our trio of dedicated counters. 

A quick check of the beach at the traffic circle revealed a Great Black-backed Gull, a new one for our list. 

After walking the maintenance loop, which was pretty birdy, although nothing really of note, we began our way down Harrison. I thought for sure we'd get a Pileated Woodpecker, but it was not to be. What we did get however was a pair of singing Great Horned Owls, the screech-owl along Bennett Ave, and a flyover Eastern Bluebird at the group campground. 

We finished our route with 45 species, which we were quite happy with. Nothing too rare, and plenty of misses, but that is to be expected on a CBC.  

eBird checklist here:

After finishing our area, we went to walk around the campground for a bit. Although it was covered by others earlier in the day, always a good place to look around. It did not take us long to locate several Yellow-rumped Warblers, and the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher that has been around. The gnatcatcher is new for the Rondeau CBC if I am not mistaken. 

We scoped the bay before leaving the park. A few Canvasback among other ducks were nice to see.

One last stop was Keith McLean's CA to look for a couple lingering birds. After a bit of searching, we spotted the continuing Nelson's Sparrow. As we were in pursuit of the sparrow for a better look (which we got), we also saw the continuing Least Sandpiper, another new species for the count. The sandpiper also has the honour of being the only photo I took all weekend.

Rondeau has so far recorded 117 species this year, a very high total. It is still a developing situation, and will be interesting to see what the finally results are.  Edit: final tally is 124 species, setting a new record for Ontario if I am not mistaken 

And that just about wraps it up! An enjoyable weekend birding back in Southwestern Ontario. As much as I love Algonquin (to which I am just about to begin my journey back to), I sure have missed these locations! Although in past years I have only done these two counts, this year I have the Algonquin CBC coming up on January 3rd.

Today it was Least Sandpiper, Nelson Sparrow, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, and Red-throated Loons, tomorrow its Evening Grosbeaks, crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks, and Canada Jays...

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