The 2018 Pakenham-Arnprior CBC

March 2, 2019
Leucistic Black-capped Chickadee

More than 900 Black-capped Chickadees were tallied on the Pakenham-Arnprior Christmas Bird Count; this leucistic individual was encountered near Stewartville.

This was my 53rd consecutive Pakenham-Arnprior Christmas Bird Count (it was called the Pakenham CBC when I first took part), and many of you have been coming for 20 years or more!  Isn’t it remarkable how the weather conditions and diversity of birds vary so much from Count to Count, making every count different and equally exciting!

 This year the starting temperature was a cool -15°C but we had near calm conditions. When it is windy and you cannot hear finches calling at dawn or woodpeckers tapping in the woods, you suspect the birds are there but not being detected due to the conditions. But when it is calm and you hear almost nothing, you know the birds just aren’t present. Such was the case this year for the 46 field observers, many of whom were in the field before dawn. Fortunately, the 15 feeder watchers seemed to fare much better.

 Of no surprise, no new species were discovered on this year’s CBC but among the 51 species (a bit below the ten-year average of 55) tallied for the Count), as usual there were some good finds.  A juvenile White-crowned Sparrow in Galetta was the sixth record for the Count, and a female Hooded Merganser in the Madawaska River was the eighth record. The best bird of the Count was a Long-eared Owl heard calling in the Blakeney sector; this was only the fourth record for this species, a rare bird in our area in any season. Great Horned Owls continue their decline; for the second year in a row the species was not found on the Count.

While there were other notable absences (no American Robins, crossbills, or blackbirds), some species were encountered in good numbers. A surprising five Northern Goshawks, a species often missed on this count, was only one shy of tying the record of six tallied in 1984. The 79 Evening Grosbeaks was the highest total in many years. With the species roughly following a 30-35 year cycle (following the Spruce Budworm cycle), we should expect to see even more next winter. Record high counts were tallied for Hairy Woodpeckers (128) and Pileated Woodpeckers (37); are Emerald Ash Borers behind this increase?

 A very interesting observation was made in Pakenham when a Song Sparrow responded to a playback of its song. Perhaps a new way of detecting this species has been discovered!

A heartfelt thanks goes to all those who participated in this year’s CBC, either as field observers or as feeder watchers. And a big thank you to Marilyn Snedden for once again hosting the compilation at her lovely home.

I look forward to seeing all of you on the 2019 Pakenham-Arnprior CBC!

Happy Birding,

Michael Runtz