This year’s Pakenham-Arnprior CBC was a special one for me. It was my 50th consecutive count and it was a perfect day for celebrating it. With no wind, light overcast skies, no snow on the ground, all water unfrozen, and mild temperatures (ranging from -5 ºC to +3 ºC), the conditions for hearing birds and seeing birds were ideal. And the warm fall that preceded the count resulted in record high numbers and some very rare birds being tallied on count day.
The best bird was a female Bullock’s Oriole that had taken up residence in Pakenham a month before the count. This is one of only a few of that species that have been seen in Ontario in winter (or in any season) and it will be one of the highlights for all provincial counts. The open water conditions resulted in first records for Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant (2), and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. It appeared that five new species (which is remarkable for any single count) had been added but a week after the count a feeder watcher sent me a picture of a bird that they thought might be either a Northern Mockingbird or a Gray Jay. It was a Northern Mockingbird and it had shown up in their yard late in the afternoon on Boxing Day, bringing the number of new count species to six! I doubt that that number of new additions shall ever be found again on any future count. Those new species bring the cumulative total for the Pakenham-Arnprior Christmas Bird Count to a remarkable 126 species.
In addition to the new species, other rarities included Ring-necked Pheasant (1; 4th count but was it wild?), Common Loon (6; 4th count), Northern Harrier (1; 4th count), Ring-billed Gull (10; 6th count), Glaucous Gull (2; 4th count), Long-eared Owl (1; 3rd count), and Red-bellied Woodpecker (1; 8th count).
Record high tallies were taken for: Canada Goose (1,561), American Black Duck (14), Common Goldeneye (101), Ring-billed Gull (10), Herring Gull (316), Great Black-backed Gull (31), Eastern Screech-Owl (3), Barred Owl (10), and Song Sparrow (5). The previous record high count was tied for Long-eared Owl (1) and Red-winged Blackbird (10).
And there were absentees. No Snowy Owls were seen on the count (but one was seen during count week). Also in the “not seen” category were Northern Goshawks, Merlins, Horned Larks, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Red Crossbills. Killdeer, Sandhill Crane, and Pine Warbler would have been new for the count but were seen only on count week (the three days before and after the count).
Finches were present in low numbers and only one Evening Grosbeak was recorded. The numbers of European Starlings and House Sparrows continue to fall; a mere 132 House Sparrows were tallied (in 1985 a record 2,011 were counted).
Approximately 40 observers took part in this year’s Christmas Bird Count. There were 62 species recorded and 7,498 individual birds tallied. Thank you to all who participated, with a special thanks going to Marilyn Snedden, Ruth Bowes, Cathy Stewart, Olga Janoska, and Maureen Carrier for helping with the pot-luck that followed the count.
I hope that everyone will return next Boxing Day; the count down to the count has already begun!
Michael Runtz, Compiler, Pakenham-Arnprior CBC
See the 2015 compilation.