By Tom Moore

Concerns were expressed by local bird watchers throughout the fall months regarding the absence of the usual birds.

These concerns were proven to be valid on December 14, the day selected for this year’s Brome Lake Christmas Bird Count. The total of 841 birds (25 species) was nearly 25% less than last year, which itself was a record low count. The table below summarizes the last five years of our count.

                Total Birds          Species

2019          841                   25

2018          1110                 30

2017          1467                 30

2016          1226                 35

2015          1333                 32

Weather was unseasonably warm with intermittent rain, reflecting the up and down nature of the last few months. Thirty-one bird lovers participated, either counting at feeders or surveying in the field.

Chickadees were the most numerous species (213), followed by 184 mallard ducks (many sup- ported by feeding by the Coldbrook stream), blue jays (104), and wild turkeys (70). Northern migrants were largely absent except for goldfinches (52) and 20 juncos. Resident cardinals numbered only 5 (down from 12 last year) and 2 tufted titmouse were reported. Unusual sightings were a goshawk (a first here!) and an elusive brown creeper.

When data from other counts are analysed, the explanation for the low migrant bird turnout may become clearer: has the population dropped or are the usual birds somewhere else? Climate change, habitat destruction and land use changes are all factors to be considered. Or, perhaps seed crops in the boreal forest are plentiful and a mild winter has allowed the birds to winter in the north?

Audubon’s website: https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count has all the data from past CBC’s and can be searched for trends over the years. All the Brome Lake count data is searchable back to the early 1990s, when the first count here took place.

The article below provides information on the variability of winter bird migrations, with a graph showing songbird winter behaviour over the last 15 years (as well as some great photos):

https://blog.nature.org/science/2017/01/18/what-northern-birds-your-feeder-year-irruption-snowy-owls/?src=e.cgs

Many thanks to everyone who participated.
Tom Moore 514-946-2445 thomasw.moore@yahoo.ca