Sunday, December 18, 2016

SSM Christmas Bird Count 2016

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in the Sault Ste. Marie Christmas Bird Count, which is run by the Sault Naturalists each year.  I joined Bob Knudsen, who teaches Ornithology at Sault College, Rob Routledge, a professor at Sault College and a student they had recruited to help out.  Our job was to cover the downtown area of Sault Ste. Marie, including Whitefish Island, one of the best places for birds in the area.

Our morning started with a Bald Eagle sitting in a tree right at the parking lot of Whitefish Island.  As we started our walk, a Downy Woodpecker flew off in the distance.  The Black-capped Chickadees were everywhere, which was no surprise for this location.  A few more Bald Eagles flew overhead and we figured there were at least four in the area.  We made our way down the shore of the St. Mary's River to check for waterfowl and gulls.  There were the usual Common Goldeneyes, Mallards and Herring Gulls.  After a while, we found something different.  A Long-tailed Duck landed in the water.  Bob had seen one the day before, so he was excited that we had managed to find it again.

We made our way over to the St. Mary's Rapids, which were full of goldeneyes.  In total, we counted 388 of them, which greatly contributed to the count total of 424, which was a record for the Sault Ste. Marie Christmas Bird Count.  Also in the rapids was the same Long-tailed Duck, this time accompanied by another, pushing their total to two.  On the other side of the rapids sat a bunch of Mallards, American Black Ducks and Herring Gulls.  Using the spotting scope, Bob was able to find a different gull, this one being a Great-black Backed Gull, a lifer for me. 

We continued down the path on Whitefish Island.  I was leading the group and as we turned a corner, there was a Northern Shrike hanging out at the top of a tree.  It stuck around long enough for everyone to catch up and see it.  We wrapped up our morning at Whitefish Island without seeing much else of significance.

Our next stop was at Station Mall to count the gulls, pigeons and Mallards that hang out in the parking lot.  One of the gulls was actually a Glaucous Gull, which was another life for me.  We continued on to check out some visible bird feeders and got some more chickadees and some American Goldfinches.  

The last task of the day was to drive around downtown and count all the Rock Pigeons and European Starlings that were hanging around.  The final count of pigeons for the day was 1218, which led to another record for this count.  By the end of the day, our group at recorded 18 species for 2229 birds, which was by far the highest total bird count for any of the groups.  The day was followed by a potluck dinner and a discussion about the day's results.

It was a great birding experience and I'm definitely looking forward to doing it again next year!  Next up is the Desbarats Christmas Bird Count, a new count that I have started, taking place on December 29, 2016.


To see the full results from the Sault Ste. Marie Christmas Bird Count, click here.


One of the count's co-compilers, Don Hall, stepped down from his role, which was putting all the data together at the end of the count and submitting it.  The Sault Naturalists were looking for someone to take on this role.  Due to my experience running a Christmas Bird Count and computer skills, I was chosen and I'm really looking forward to helping out later this year!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sault Naturalists Birding Outing

Yesterday, there was a Sault Naturalists outing where the main goal was to see what kinds of birds could be found at Bellevue Park and Whitefish Island in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  There were 12 members who came out, despite the light drizzle of rain.

We all met at the main parking lot of Bellevue Park, right along to St. Mary's River.  On the left side of Topsail Island, which is part of Bellevue Park, where all the sailboats moor in the summer, was a Lesser Scaup, some Buffleheads, some Hooded Mergansers and a Common Merganser.  We walked along the path onto Topsail Island, seeing some goldfinches and chickadees.

At one point, I was in the front of the group and was the first one to approach a lookout point.  There I was an American Coot, fairly close to shore  I got really excited, because they shouldn't be here this time of the year.  In fact, this sighting is only one of a handful ever made in December in the Algoma District.  The rest of the group hurried over and was able to see it before it swam too far away.  Off in the distance we saw some Common Goldeneyes diving.

After we finished on Topsail Island, we toured the rest of the park.  We managed to find a small flock of Common Redpolls and a Common Grackle, which is uncommon for this time of the year.  In total, we saw 18 different species in a few hours at Bellevue Park.

Next we traveled over to Whitefish Island.  Unfortunately, this spot didn't produce any interesting birds like Bellevue Park did.  We saw the usual Mallards, goldeneyes, gulls chickadees and pigeons that are almost impossible not to see at Whitefish Island.  We ended up with 10 different species here.

My highlight of the day was a few hours after the Sault Naturalists outing ended.  I was leaving my apartment and was turning right onto Pine Street.  As I was looking left to check for traffic, I noticed a bunch of people looking up in the sky at a lamp post.  I figured there must have been something interesting on top of it, so I turned that way instead.  It turned out to be a Snowy Owl sitting on the top of the lamp post.  This was a lifer for me!  I snapped a few pictures then continued on to my original destination.

To see the full list of birds from Bellevue Park, click here
To see the full list of birds from Whitefish Island, click here