VLB Christmas bird count

For the 27th consecutive year, a volunteer group of about 30 local bird enthusiasts participated in the annual Audubon & Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird count. Fewer birds than usual had been observed in this region of Quebec during December and the bitter cold weather conditions in the week before the count on Saturday the 17th hadn’t been encouraging. Tree seeds and cone crops in the north-eastern Boreal forests were also reportedly abundant this fall, encouraging winter migrant species to remain in the north.

Weather moderated to -5 to -10ºC for the 17th and it turned out to be a nice winter day.

Our total bird count number of 1225 was about 10% down from last year

As suspected, our total bird count number of 1225 was about 10% down from last year, although we spotted a fairly typical 35 species. With Brome Lake having frozen, local ducks consisted of only about 100 mallards at the outlet in Foster. Small numbers of common and hooded mergansers, goldeneye and one loon were seen on Lake Memphremagog.

Chickadees (288) were the most numerous species with 178 wild turkeys next, followed by bluejays (113) and mourning doves(110). A small flock of 30 evening grosbeaks and 6 pine grosbeaks were the only northern migrants to show up.

Results from various Montreal region counts which were conducted before Christmas (the count day can be any day from Dec14th to Jan 5th) have tended to show reduced bird numbers this year, compared to previous statistics. Year to year bird numbers in CBC count circles are quite variable: availability of specific types of seeds and cones and continent-wide weather patterns play a big role in the “snapshot” of the bird population that the counts deliver. Only when the continent-wide data is analyzed can conclusions be made as to whether bird numbers are decreasing, as many people think.

Audubon’s website has all the data from past CBCs and can be searched for trends over the years. All the Brome Lake count data is searchable back to the early 1990’s, when the first count here took place.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

Tom Moore