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Christmas Bird Count flies into Quinte Dec. 27

Belleville Intelligencer,
December 7 2016

BELLEVILLE – Quinte area residents are being asked to count their feathered friends this holiday season.

The Christmas Bird Count, initiated by American ornithologist Frank Chapman in 1900, is a one-day bird census conducted by volunteers. Counts are organized locally by birding and nature clubs. They are free and open to people of all ages and skill levels.

This year’s counts will run from Dec. 14, 2016 to Jan. 5, 2017 with Belleville’s being scheduled for Dec. 27. Many of Ontario Nature’s member groups are co-ordinating counts across the province this season.

Last year, during the bird count, a Belleville resident spotted an American white pellican, making it one of the rarest spottings during Ontario counts.

Always fun and sometimes chilly, each volunteer who braves the elements to take part in a count contributes to the study and conservation of birds. Data collected is used to monitor the status of resident and migratory birds throughout the western hemisphere. The Christmas Bird Count is North America’s longest-running wildlife census, and is a crucial part of Canada’s biodiversity monitoring database.

The Christmas Bird Count is a great way for bird lovers of all ages to help Ontario’s birds. Novices work alongside experts to collect important data that help guide our work on behalf of all birds across the province. And who knows… “maybe you’ll see a rare bird that no one has recorded before,” stated Emma Horrigan, conservation science co-ordinator at Ontario Nature.

Last year, 3,472 people participated in 120 Christmas Bird Counts in Ontario. A whopping 187 species and 1,559,310 individual birds were recorded. Here are some highlights:
– Toronto had the most field observers (150). But Ottawa-Gateneau (133), Algonquin (110), Hamilton (107) and London (100) all cracked the 100 mark.
– The five most commonly spotted birds last year were the Canada goose (261,011), American crow (252,921), European starling (132,769), ring-billed gull (101,382) and mallard (89,797).

Other high counts include 203 red-necked grebes in Barrie and 10,870 tundra swans on the St. Clair National Wildlife Area count.

An unusually warm and ice-free December contributed to large year-over-year gains in sightings of a number of inland waterbirds, including hooded mergansers, buffleheads, common loons, common goldeneyes and Sandhill cranes.

One-hundred-and-twenty-four snowy owls were recorded on 30 counts.
Swamp, white-throated, song, field, chipping and savannah sparrows were recorded in lower numbers than last year.

A vermilion flycatcher at Wallaceburg and a yellow-bellied flycatcher at Cedar Creek represented firsts among Canadian Christmas Bird Count records.

Other rare bird highlights include a black-throated gray warbler in Pembroke, a Bullock’s oriole on the Pakenham-Arnprior count and a Eurasian tree sparrow at Pike Bay.

For more information on the local count residents are asked to contact John Blaney at sharronjohnblaney@gmail.com