By Tom Moore
For the 28th consecutive year, a volunteer group of local bird enthusiasts participated in the 118th annual Audubon & Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird count. This year there were 31 participants. Bird numbers had been noticeably lower than usual in the area during November-December, and the cold weather conditions before the count on Saturday the 16th 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.
Despite these poor indicators, the 2017-18 Lac-Brome count totalled 33 different species, including 3 unusual sightings during the count week period: a great blue heron, a kingfisher and a northern shrike. The total bird count was 1496, up significantly thanks to several flocks of geese en route south a bit later than usual. (Last year’s result was 1225 total, 35 species).
Saturday, December 16 was a cloudy day, with temperature around -10 0C and only moderate winds. With Brome Lake having frozen, local ducks consisted of 175 mallards, seen in 4 groups of 25-50 at several different locations around the lake. However 280 Canada geese were spotted in several flocks, as well sighting of 100 snow geese.
Two hooded mergansers, two mallards and three loons were seen on Lake Memphremagog at Knowlton’s landing, on the extreme edge of our count circle.
Chickadees were noticeably fewer than usual (193 vs 288 last year), narrowly edging out blue jays (171) as the most numerous feeder birds. Juncos were more numerous than usual with 146 reported. The 110 wild turkeys and 70 mourning doves were both down from last year’s count. 13 cardinals and 3 tufted titmice were new high numbers for those species. No snow buntings, waxwings or crossbills were seen and only 5 redpolls and one evening grosbeak. The only raptor reported was a sharp-shinned hawk.
Audubon’s website (www.audubon.org) has all the data from past Christmas Bird Counts and can be searched for trends over the years. All the Lac Brome count data is searchable back to the early 1990s, when the first count here took place.
The blog 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).
Many thanks to everyone who participated.
Tom Moore 514-946-2445 firstname.lastname@example.org