Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Bird Counts and Weather

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season started today and runs for three weeks.  For some of us locally, the counts start on Saturday.  Over the years, we have had every conceivable type of weather.  Some quite pleasant, and others rather challenging.
It amazes me how the long-range forecasts are so inaccurate.  On Monday, the forecast for this weekend was quite depressing.  Now, it has mellowed a bit, looking more bearable for CBC's.  We will await to see what happens! I am not sure why I even look at the forecasts as even the night before can be quite different as to what actually happens the next day. For those of us who work all week, we take what comes!

The Kettle Point CBC is Saturday.  I have participated in this one in most years over the last twenty plus.  Often there is quite a bit of snow as the lake effect is a factor.  I recall a couple of times where there was over 60 cm of snow limiting our hikes. Other times, there is no snow and is quite mild.

I always do the Arkona area and sections along or near the Ausable River.  Golden Eagles are almost a guarantee along the Ausable.  Usually I see one at Rock Glen CA as I look over the field at the north border of the CA.  Last year I said we have to look there, and sure enough, there was a Golden Eagle soaring over the river!
The following day is the Rondeau CBC.  Again, we have had every type of weather.  I recall some years quite pleasant, but a couple had gale force winds.

Rondeau, south beach

One year was quite snowy, and throughout the day, then the wind kicked up.  After the compilation and meal at the Burk's, I headed towards Chatham.  It was not too bad, but north of Chatham it was almost zero visibility and one could not find the road.  I was forced to turn around and stay in a hotel in Chatham even though at the time I had my 4WD Ford Explorer.

One of the Wallaceburg CBC's had dense fog and birding by ear came in handy!

January 1 is the hangover St. Clair NWA CBC and is always interesting for those who want to start their year list.  Steve Charbonneau, Pete Chapman, and myself (and others over the years) always checked out the Bradley properties near the mouth of the Thames River in the past.  Normally, the area is off limits, but we were allowed to go in for that day.  We have come up with some good birds over the years.  I recall the very first year I did it with Steve and we had a Yellow-headed Blackbird and Tufted Titmouse, both new for the count.  We have had other first for the count over the years as well.

Brewer's Blackbirds are often found on this count, and we have seen some over the years since it is a good area for lingering blackbirds.
Often it is quite windy adjacent to Lake St. Clair and sheltered areas were desirable.  One year (Dave Skinner was along) we bailed at noon due to an incoming blizzard!
In later years, I did St. Luke's Marsh adjacent to the St. Clair NWA and some decent birds were included in my list.  A Virginia Rail was certainly a decent find one year.
Marsh Wrens are often found as are Common Yellowthroats.  I have had both in St. Luke's.
Years with little snow are good for walking the dikes.  Little ice helps as well since one can look out onto Lake St. Clair for waterfowl.

A new count in the area is Skunk's Misery.  January 2 will be the third year running.  There is not much to say about this one yet, but freezing rain in the first year was not too desirable.  Some excellent areas for birds are included in this count.
It is always a contest to see who comes up with good birds.  We keep things quiet until the compilation and meal to make things more interesting.
As well, "good" birds seen in days before the count are always looked for.  Back in 1995, Wallaceburg was hoping for an Ivory Gull (the one I found on the St. Clair River December 23), but it missed "count week" by one day!
Wallaceburg has done well with rarity firsts such as the Black-necked Stilt in 2001 and of course the Vermilion Flycatcher in 2015.  Strangely enough, both were first found by Larry Cornelis!

And, of course there are always surprises during count day...something that makes CBC's exciting!


  1. Good thing you got pics of the very rare Red-capped Chickadee and Red-capped Snowy Owl.....a write-up for the OBRC without the pics to prove the ID just wouldn't work, I'm thinking :-).

    1. The camera often comes in handy. You never know what you will find out there!