Monday, December 28, 2015

Wallaceburg: A Unique CBC

Yesterday was our local Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  The Wallaceburg CBC has been going on since 1986 (a trial was in 1985) and I have been doing them since 1987.  Needless to say it is always interesting, and sometimes exciting to see what is out there.
This year was the "quietest" count I have ever done.  One wonders where all the birds are, even though it has been unseasonably mild (until today).  Ducks are still out on the lakes, up north, or deep in the marshes.
Flowers, buds and other things are still out!

We were pleased to count the Harlequin Duck at Sombra dock.  There was not much else out there with regards to ducks, but I think we can thank Bill Ansell who faithfully feeds the ducks daily, and every winter at the Sombra dock.

My CBC area has always included everything south of Langstaff Line and I have been doing that every year with the exception of one when I helped Steve Charbonneau on Walpole Island. (Those were the days when Northern Bobwhite could be found with ease!).

I started at Bear Creek Marsh, SW of town, and was joined by Janet Fraser and Martha Gillier.  I arrived when it was still fairly dark and my very first bird was a Great Blue Heron (head only seen in the headlights of my car) along Bear Creek.  It turned out to be the only Great Blue recorded by CBC participants.

Bear Creek is always a good spot to get a variety of birds, mainly waterfowl.  Due to the horrible weather (yes it was the weekend again), we did not get much.  Just before we left Bear Creek, I heard the sound of Sandhill Cranes, and three were seen flying to the east.  The two below were seen later in the morning.

Later on, I found two more between Stewart and Langstaff (viewed from the back of the property where I used to work), then later in the afternoon we found four more on the south side of Stewart.  I had no doubt we would get Sandhill Cranes on the count as they have been increasing in numbers over the years, and have been very regular this fall and early winter.  The CBC recorded 72, which coincidentally is approximately the number that flew over Stewart Wetland each morning for two months.

Quickie photo of Sandhill Cranes

Many of us stopped by to the see the faithful Vermilion Flycatcher at some point.  It was less than a kilometre from my CBC area.  Martha and Janet wanted to see it, so we went up there.
A few familiar faces were there again, including Barb Wire Charlton and Dave Beadle. (Dave is at the scope).

If nothing else showed up on the CBC, this was the one we wanted to record!  What a co-operative little gem of a bird.  One wonders what its future holds, but it may be doomed.

It has been getting food thanks to the mild weather.  People have seen it get various grubs, flies, etc.  It has found an ideal location.

Our CBC recorded 75 species which is OK considering the undesirable weather and other factors.

Martha and Janet recorded one of the three Snowy Owls of the CBC on Meadowvale Line west of hwy 40.  I went out this morning and saw it farther back in a field.  (Another was to the east of hwy 40).

I checked out Bear Creek Marsh again and saw a couple species I did not get yesterday.  Those included a flyover Common Grackle (none were recorded yesterday!) and a nearby Cackling Goose.

I went into the old Dover Township and found at least ten more Snowy Owls on only two roads I took to St. Clair NWA.

There are thousands of Tundra Swans still around along with much other waterfowl.  With the exceptionally mild weather recently, there is ample open water.  The St. Clair NWA CBC is this coming Friday, so that should do fairly well with waterfowl--its mainstay.


  1. Yesterday was an unusual day to say the least. It is nice to know so many Sandhills are still around. Perhaps we will get them on the SCNWA CBC, which has only happened 3 times so far. And maybe we will beat last year's record of 15 Snowy Owls

    1. Interesting that today's owls (5 and 5) were basically each in the same field. No doubt many more within the circle.