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Birds galore at the St. Catharines Christmas Bird Count

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Peninsula Field Naturalists and this wordsmith volunteering at the 2016 St. Catharines Area Christmas Bird Count.

There are more than 100 Christmas Bird Counts in Ontario planned, of which more than 65 are affiliated with our Nature Network groups. This year, because of its diverse overwintering species and diverse habitat, I chose to volunteer and participate in the St. Catharines Area Christmas Bird Count, coordinated by members of the Peninsula Field Naturalists.

Our team had an 8 a.m. start, from Vineland, Ontario. Beginning the day at -2 Celsius, there was three inches of snow and a thin ice crust.

By 10 a.m., we had seen more than a dozen species.

These American goldfinches collected grit from a wall to help digest grains and seeds.

These American goldfinches collected grit from a wall to help digest grains and seeds.

This dark-eyed junco was seen early in the day bouncing along the snow below a feeder.

This dark-eyed junco was seen early in the day bouncing along the snow below a feeder.

At around 9 a.m., I spotted a remarkable flock of 100 snow buntings.

At around 9 a.m., I spotted a remarkable flock of 100 snow buntings.

This flock of Canada geese shortly followed the snow buntings.

This flock of Canada geese shortly followed the snow buntings.

A Cooper’s hawk in an icy thicket.

A Cooper’s hawk in an icy thicket.

 White-crowned sparrow (foreground) and American tree sparrow (background).

White-crowned sparrow (foreground) and American tree sparrow (background).

Apparently, this wild turkey had been around our rest stop for several weeks – widowed after its mate had been hit. Hopefully it will have found a new mate by spring.

Apparently, this wild turkey had been around our rest stop for several weeks – widowed after its mate had been hit. Hopefully it will have found a new mate by spring.

These horned larks were feeding on grains in a field as a weather system brought in falling snow.

These horned larks were feeding on grains in a field as a weather system brought in falling snow.

(Left to right); Lynn Glover, Jean Hampson, John Black, Bob Highcock and Noah Cole.

(Left to right); Lynn Glover, Jean Hampson, John Black, Bob Highcock and Noah Cole.

A red-tailed hawk surveyed snow buntings and horned larks.

A red-tailed hawk surveyed a field, nearby flocks of snow buntings and horned larks in adjacent fields.

By the end of the day, we were all truly glad to have met. We went to a local diner for lunch and talked about the many interesting birds we had seen and the natural history of the area. In the course of our searches, we looked for local ring-necked pheasants but did not find any. At a nearby bird feeder, though I didn’t have the chance to see it, a few in our group saw a tufted titmouse. Thanks to the many memorable sightings, we were a contented group indeed.

The St. Catharines and Vineland areas are excellent places to go birdwatching. All in all, we saw 33 species, including:

342 Canada geese
8 Wild turkeys
1 Turkey vulture
1 Northern harrier
2 Sharp-shinned hawks
2 Cooper’s hawks
5 Red-tailed hawks
6 Ring-billed gulls
18 Herring gulls
1 Great black-backed gull
65 Rock pigeons
61 Mourning doves
3 Red-bellied woodpeckers
5 Downy woodpeckers
1 Northern flicker
3 American kestrels
15 Blue jays
11 American crows
119 Horned larks
26 Black-capped chickadees
1 Tufted titmouse
6 White-breasted nuthatches
1 American robin
144 European starlings
159 Snow buntings
79 American tree sparrows
102 Dark-eyed juncos
6 White-crowned sparrows
10 Northern cardinals
11 Brown-headed cowbirds
2 House finches
49 American goldfinches
202 House sparrows


NoahNoah Cole, Ontario Nature’s communications technician, has regularly contributed Christmas Bird Count and birdwatching blogs.

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2 Comments

  1. Otto Peter

    You got some great species there. I would trade some of our 900 Greater Scaup for one Snow Bunting, Horned Lark or Tufted Titmouse. Our group saw 40 species but we saw a lot more ducks than you did. Looking forward to Pickering’s count next Friday.

    • Noah Cole, Communications Technician, Ontario Nature

      Thanks a lot Otto!

      Having the chance to see 900 greater scaup makes for an impressive day.
      It is great you are helping and having fun in participating in at least two Christmas Bird Counts! I hope you saw quite a few species along Pickering’s forest, field and lakeshore trails!

      ON Noah

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