Birders in the field and registered feeder watchers in Georgina, East Gwillimbury and northeast Uxbridge participated in the 31st annual Sutton Christmas Bird Count on Sat., Dec. 30, 2017.
The day started off fully overcast for owling with an extreme low temperature of almost -20 degrees Celsius. As the day went on the temperature rose to -9 degrees by mid-afternoon. A light persistent wind (10 km/hour) from the southeast shifting to northwest by afternoon occurred throughout the day. Light snow off and on throughout most of the day was followed by intense snow squalls late in the afternoon.
The very cold early in the morning during the owling and relatively low winds, resulted in optimum owling conditions. Lake Simcoe was completely frozen and snow covered.
A total of 44 species on the day (lower than most years – not unexpected given the weather), and four count week bird species were recorded. With a lot of December snow before the count it was noted by birders that some birds were generally hard to find away from feeders.
Highlights for the count day were a count high of three Owl species heard (Great Horned (2), Barred (1) and Screech (4)) and one Snowy owl (1) seen. Two Bald eagles were recorded, down from 12 last year when the lake was still open. Almost no waterfowl or gulls were seen on count day (because most all water was frozen, except fast moving streams). However, two Black ducks were found and one Ring-billed gull seen by field birders.
Southern birds still in our count area were limited, but Golden-crowned kinglet (2), Mockingbird (1), White-throated sparrow (1), and Red-winged blackbird (1), three of them at separate feeders were of note and considerable interest. The much talked about northern finches irruption predicted across southern Canada did not appear in the Sutton Count area. House finch (16), Purple finch (10) and Pine siskin (2) were considered low for expectations. Interestingly, Lapland longspur (2), Horned lark (12) and Snow bunting (500) were welcome, but not rare winter species additions to the count.
The four significant Count Week birds (not seen on count day) were Canada geese, Tundra swan, Northern goshawk and Peregrine falcon. Thanks to all field birders and feeder watchers who participated in the count.
The 31st Sutton Christmas Bird Count is one of hundreds of Official Counts (C.B.C.’s) in North America and the world under the auspices of the National Audubon Society. The results of these bird surveys over many years have been essential to scientific research on many aspects of avian ecology, populations and particularly to climate change impact and related critical science. The Sutton Count is supported by the Zephyr Society of Lake Simcoe Research Foundation (www.zephyrsociety.ca) and the South Lake Simcoe Naturalists (www.slsnc.ca).
By Paul Harpley and Debra Harpley SLSN
Photo by Paul Harpley