Wednesday 9 March 2022

Algonquin Park Winter List 2021-22

Well, a week and a half into March already, but better late than never.

Each winter, birders in Ontario (and beyond) may keep what is known as a "winter list". These winter lists record birds seen between the dates of December 1st and February 28/29th. Birders and obscure lists, I know. This past "winter listing period" was a record setting year in Ontario, with 229 species recorded. The total for Algonquin Park, however, as you can expect, was slightly lower than that.

Best that I can tell, the final tally for Algonquin Park was a grand total of 42 species. This is pretty impressive for Algonquin, I think. Of note, 30 species were recorded on the Christmas Bird Count on January 3rd, which is slightly above average.

Some species highlights include:

- Common Goldeneye (Tea Lake Dam February 17 onwards)

- Hooded Merganser (Western Uplands Backpacking Trail on January 3, Tea Lake Dam on February 19)

- Herring Gull (Brewer Lake on December 2)

- Common Loon (Lake of Two Rivers on December 8)

- Golden Eagle (Mew Lake Campground on February 7)

- Red-tailed Hawk (Opeongo Road on December 22)

- Sharp-shinned Hawk (Visitor Centre from late December until January 3)

- Merlin (Old Airfield until January 3)

- Northern Shrike (Spruce Bog Boardwalk on January 8)

- Boreal Chickadee (Black Fox Portage on January 3)

Many of these species are usually not seen in Algonquin Park during the winter months, or are quite uncommon in the park (note Boreal Chickadee!). Some other highlights included three species of owls (Barred Owl, Great Grey Owl, and Northern Hawk Owl) and all nine expected species of finches, including a rostrata Common Redpoll. 

The mild start to the winter, as well as several mild patches here and there throughout the remainder of the winter, likely attributed to the numbers of American Tree Sparrows (two wintered at the visitor centre, several others encountered throughout) and Dark-eyed Juncos (one wintered at the visitor centre, others throughout). Snow Buntings, a species that typically departs once snow covers the ground, was recorded a few times throughout the winter listing period. 

As for misses? Nothing really stands out to me. American Crow and European Starling both just narrowly missed the count period, both showing up in the park on March 4th. Slightly later than average for crow, and slightly before average for starling. Crows were seen just outside the park in Dwight as early as February 16th or 17th.

Now, how about my winter list? Since I would be living in the park over the winter, I thought it would be fun to see what I could tally. I ended up with 35 species. I will admit, I didn't really go out of my way to add species—although an early December trip to Brent or Lake Travers likely could have yielded something of interest, I had a Glaucous-winged Gull that I wanted to see! In the new year, I kind of got a bit lazy with it, and as such only added a few species (Purple Finch, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Hoary Redpoll, and Common Goldeneye).

My biggest miss was the Old Airfield Merlin. Despite first observing this individual back in mid-October and seeing it almost every time I birded there throughout November, I did not see it in December on the few times I went out. Other than that, I don't feel robbed on really anything other than the Boreal Chickadees. Although I thought about it, I never did make that four kilometer hike in to where they were seen. Oh, and Barred Owl, but I never tried for them!

My biggest highlights, other than the Sharp-shinned and Common Goldeneye I mentioned prior, was Common Loon, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Hawk Owl, and Herring Gull. Seeing all nine finches, plus a rostrata Common Redpoll, was pretty neat, and kept the winter lively and entertaining. 

Evening Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

Hoary Redpoll

rostrata Common Redpoll with flammea

Bottom line...had some fun with it and didn't take it too seriously. A nice change of pace! 

Now, to find a Boreal Owl...