Chickadees the most seen species at annual Christmas bird count

This black-capped chickadee was spied on the Hines travels.

by Chris Bell, compiler

MANITOULIN—Two thousand, four hundred and forty-eight birds of 52 species were counted on the 45th annual Mindemoya Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 15. Twenty-seven feeder watchers, including four new volunteers, took part this year. There were 29 birders, including four new recruits, in nine areas within the 24 kilometre circle. 

Several of the regular counters commented that there were very few birds to be seen in the countryside this year.

Most numerous birds this year were the 499 black-capped chickadees, 247 American crows, 212 blue jays and 193 mourning doves.

Uncommon birds for this time of year included seven Canada goose, a belted kingfisher along the Manitou River, an American kestrel, two brown creepers, a ruby-crowned kinglet in Providence Bay and an American robin in Mindemoya

Ducks were scarce. Much of Lake Manitou and Lake Kagawong had frozen on the morning of the count.

The ground had been snow covered since November but there was only about three centimeters on the count, making travel easy. The traditional hike along the Lake Huron shoreline went ahead but very few ducks were seen. The big flocks of several years ago no longer appear to winter here now. Hare’s Creek and a section of the Manitou River were also walked  

Only 12 bald eagles were seen but we did find several hawks. There have been several snowy owls sightings this fall and we found two on the count. We also saw two barred owls. For some reason this year more downy woodpeckers were seen than hairy woodpeckers—the reversal of the usual finding. Thirteen pileated woodpeckers were counted—the highest total in several years.

Every year a few birds that normally move further south in winter stay on Manitoulin. Three common grackles and one red-winged blackbird turned up on the count as did 10 dark-eyed juncos but only three tree sparrows- fewer than usual. There was also a single white-crowned sparrow. 

Both the pine grosbeaks and evening grosbeaks were seen on the count in good numbers. The count of 106 evening grosbeaks was the highest since 1997. The evening grosbeak is a declining species so perhaps the high numbers here this year indicate Manitoulin has more suitable grosbeak food than in other parts of the continent. There was a good selection of winter finches on the count but fewer purple finches and American goldfinches this year. Pine siskins were numerous in November but mostly gone in December. Common redpolls are the most common finch this year.

While several feeder-watchers had almost no birds, four had 12 or more species. Blanche McDermid of Providence Bay reported 12 species including the red-winged blackbird, a grackle and purple finches and wins the 2018 Award for the most successful feeder.

The Mindemoya Christmas Bird Count is a project of the National Audubon Society and the Manitoulin Nature Club. 

The following is the full list of birds counted: seven Canada goose; 25 black duck; 97 mallard; four long-tailed duck; one bufflehead; 31 common goldeneye; two hooded merganser; 98 common merganser; three red-breasted merganser; 13 ring-necked pheasant; 11 ruffed grouse; eight sharp-tailed grouse; 88 rock pigeon; 193 mourning dove; 88 herring gull; 12 bald eagle; one northern goshawk; one red-tailed hawk; two rough-legged hawk; two snowy owl; two barred owl; 11 red-bellied woodpecker; 42 downy woodpecker; 38 hairy woodpecker; 13 pileated woodpecker; one American kestrel; five northern shrike; 212 blue jay; 247 American crow; 85 common raven; 499 black-capped chickadee; 20 red-breasted nuthatch; 64 white-breasted nuthatch; two brown creeper; one ruby-crowned kinglet; one American robin; 137 European starling; 106 evening grosbeaks; 28 pine grosbeak; 15 purple finch; 137 common redpoll; one hoary redpoll; 24 pine siskin; 49 American goldfinch; one snow bunting; four American tree sparrow; one white-crowned sparrow; 10 dark-eyed junco; one red-winged blackbird; three common grackle; and eight northern cardinal for a total of 2,448 birds of 52 species.