Tuesday 17 December 2019

Christmas Bird Counts 2019

This past weekend I participated in two Christmas Bird Counts (CBC).

On Saturday I did the London CBC. My area is a 5 kilometer stretch of pathway along the river in south London. It can be quite good, however this year I averaged lesser numbers of birds, and it was my lowest species count out of the previous years, with 30.

While there isn't too much to comment on, I did have a few highlights. Cardinal numbers were higher than previous years, with forty tallied. Early on I had a Red-winged Blackbird in a cattail marsh, which is a good one on the count. The best bird was a House Wren, which is the second record ever in the 100+ years of the count.

After the morning walk, I went down to the landfill. Best bird was a Slaty-backed Gull, which was found the previous day. The first record on the London CBC, and a first record for Middlesex county. Other gulls included thousands of Herring Gulls, lesser numbers of Ring-billed, and some Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, and Glaucous. I couldn't turn up any Iceland Gulls.

Herring Gulls and Glaucous Gull
Overall, the results of the London count revealed that it was a below average year, but with some exceptional highlights. Another new one for the count was a Wilson's Warbler. Other highlights included Greater White-fronted Goose, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cackling Goose, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

On Sunday I did the Rondeau/Blenheim CBC with Blake Mann. We did the area in the park south of the visitor center.

We started the day with a lakewatch off Dog Beach. It was quite cold with limited birds. We had four Red-throated Loons, which means I can keep my Red-throated streak! I have had them on every Rondeau count I've done. The one I had in my first count four years ago was the first seen since 1981. As others have noted, sighting of this species are increasing in the Rondeau area, which is quite odd.

After the lakewatch (we also had three Long-tailed Ducks, which was nice), we went and started our usual walking route; down South Point Trail to the washout, then back up Lakeshore to the VC, and back down Harrison. As it has been the last couple years, it was a fairly uneventful. Best bird was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which was the only bird around it seems! A Pileated Woodpecker was also good to get.

On our Lakeshore walk, we had an Eastern Towhee, as well as Common Grackle. A Tufted Titmouse at the feeders may have been the only on the count. Harrison was mostly uneventful, but we did have a Hermit Thrush.

After lunch, we did a quick walk around the campground, where we basically had no birds! Seemed to be the theme that day...

Blake went off on his own to check some other areas, so I went to check a few areas on my own. I went to the maintenance loop, where the only notable birds were a Carolina Wren and Carolina Wren. I basically gave up on birding and did some botanizing.

I found two mulberry (Morus) species on the loop.

The rare Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) has one of its last population strongholds in Rondeau Park. From what I understand the Rondeau population includes some of the best examples of this species in Ontario. With only a few hundred trees left in the province, it is at risk due to habitat loss and this next species, White Mulberry (Morus alba) which is invasive, and rapidly hybridizing with Red Mulberry, which is resulting in genetically impure trees.

Next I went to the beach off of the VC. I found a few more plants.

Common Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)

Canadian Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis)

I also found this on the beach, not quite sure what it is. (EDIT: pharyngeal teeth of the fish Freshwater Drum, thanks Kate!)

 Afterwards I went to the trailhead of the Marsh Trail, because why not? Had a Winter Wren, as well as some more plants. I saw some winter stems of Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), a somewhat rare plant in Ontario. Saw a couple other things too.

Swamp Loosestrife (Decodon verticillatus)

Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Prairie Cordgrass (Sporobolus michauxianus)
Afterwards I went to Erieau to do a quick check before heading off to the compilation.
Not much of note, other than a couple Field Sparrows in a flock of tree sparrows, and a Winter Wren along the rail trail.

Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) was locally abundant in the sandunes.

A few Muskrats were around.

The dinner and compilation was good as always. In total the count had 102 species, which is quite good considering the circumstances. I always enjoy Rondeau!

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