Friday, January 6, 2017

Desbarats Christmas Bird Count

It was a lot of hard work and effort to set up and organize, but the first Desbarats Christmas Bird Count was a great success!

I got the idea for starting a Christmas Bird Count in Desbarats while scrolling through the Bird Studies Canada website one day this past summer while looking for event ideas I could use for the Kensington Conservancy, which I am the Land Stewardship Coordinator for.  I got everything organized with Bird Studies Canada, picked out the exact location of the count circle and chose the date of December 29, 2016.  I then advertised the event and the interested stated pouring in!  I had way more interest than I expected, which made for some more work, but I wasn't complaining.

There was eight of us in my group for the actual count.  I was joined by my girlfriend, my mother, Cheryl from the North Channel Current and three members of the Sault Naturalists.  Our job was to cover the Desbarats area of the count circle, which included all of the Kensington Conservancy's 893 acres. 

Our first stop was for a snowshoe around the Kensington Conservancy's Archibald Homestead, a 170 acre property that used to be farmed.  We snowshoed around, seeing nothing but some ravens and chickadees.  We got down near the water and finally saw something a little more interesting.  Two medium-sized birds were hoping around in the trees, but they were far away and hard to see.  Finally, I was able to get a decent look at one through my binoculars and realized they were Pine Grosbeaks.  Next, we started making our way back to our cars to complete the loop.  We saw a Bald Eagle fly overhead, a Ruffed Grouse among the trees and a Red-breasted Nuthatch with some chickadees along the way.  Just before we reached the cars, we saw about 17 Pine Grosbeaks gathering grit from the road and a Hairy Woodpecker in a nearby tree.

Next, we traveled along a few back roads before stopping at the next property and saw a House Sparrow and some European Starlings and Rock Pigeons in addition to the regular crows and ravens.  We strapped on the snowshoes again and took a walk around the Kensington Conservancy's Foster Parkland and Walking Trails property.  This portion of the day barely produced at all.  I think we saw one crow fly over and maybe a couple chickadees. 

After lunch, our group was now down to four people, as some had to take off.  We drove around again and manged to see some more chickadees, some Blue Jays and an American Goldfinch at some feeders in Desbarats.  Just before arriving at our last property of the day, there were five Wild Turkeys on the side of the road.  We snowshoed into the Black Hole Preserve, another Kensington Conservancy owned property.  We thought we weren't going to see any birds at all, then all of the sudden a hawk flew overhead.  We all threw our binoculars up to our eyes and quickly determined it was a Red-tailed Hawk.

By now, it was 3:00pm and the last three members of the group called it quits for the day.  I decided I wasn't done yet, so I did some more driving around to see what I could find.  The only significant thing I managed was a small flock of 19 Snow Buntings in a field.  The snow and wind then started to really pick up, so I finished and went home.

In total, my group was able to record 16 different species for a total of 126 birds.  Add that to all the other groups and feeder watchers, the Desbarats Christmas Bird Count saw 35 species and 1532 birds.  This event had a total of 34 people participate, which made it the best field work event that the Kensington Conservancy had all year.  I'm already looking forward to next year and hopefully it will be even better!

To see the full results from the Desbarats Christmas Bird Count, click here.

A group of fielder observers on The Kensington Conservancy's Archibald Homestead
Bohemian Waxwing photographed by Barry Lyons

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