By Paul and Debra Harpley -- The Sutton Christmas Bird Count on Sat., Dec. 28, 2018, documented 53 species.
Many birders in the field and registered feeder watchers in the Georgina, East Gwillimbury and northwest Uxbridge areas took part in the 32nd annual event.
A total of 53 species were documented on the day (one of the higher species counts in recent years -- unexpected as fewer birds were seen at feeders, but with a fully open Lake Simcoe).
Highlights for the count day were a count high of three owl species seen or heard: Great Horned (3), Eastern Screech (3) and Snowy (21) owls seen. Sixteen Bald eagles (16) were recorded, the highest count day record, with all water still open. Lots of waterfowl and gulls were seen on count day, with unexpected Red-breasted merganser (1), and Black ducks (2) being highlights for field birders.
Some of the southern migrating birds still lingering in our count area included White-crowned sparrow (1), White-throated sparrow (2), Eastern bluebird (1) and Carolina wren (1).
In the previous two years, the much talked about prediction of northern finches’ irruption across southern Canada did not appear in the Sutton Count area. However, in 2018 the Sutton Count highlight was Pine grosbeaks (32) in the count area on the day! Evening grosbeaks were seen on a few occasions in the count area in mid-November and December (first time in many years) but did not make an appearance on count day. Other finches seen were House finch (4), Common redpoll (145) and American goldfinch (176) but no Purple finch or Pine siskin were documented. Interestingly, Horned lark (1) and Snow bunting (263) were welcome winter species additions on count day. Thanks to all field birders and feeder watchers who participated in the count.
The 32nd Sutton Christmas Bird Count, is one of hundreds of Official Counts in North America and the world under the auspices of the National Audubon Society (Bird Studies Canada). 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).
Photo of Pine Grosbeaks taken Dec. 29, 2018, by Hendrik Hart