Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Bird Count

On December 20 I again participated in the Christmas Bird Count for Grand Manan Island. I have a relatively easy route that takes in the shoreline from south of Seal Cove to Southern Head. The woods were very quiet but the shoreline was busy with one flock of common eiders numbering above 500 birds. There may have been more but unfortunately a raging snow storm started mid day, preventing much observation in the afternoon.

There has been an abundance of small herring or brit around the island this year and Seal Cove Sound and Southern Head were certainly showing signs by the bird activity. In fact I saw two different birds each bring a small herring to the surface. Another good indicator were three harbour porpoises working back and forth in an area just off Southern Head.

I saw 24 different species of birds, totalling more than 1200 individuals with only 3 species being "land birds", ravens, black-capped chickadees and a peregrine falcon. The rest were on or above the ocean, including five species of alcids (dovekies, black guillemots, razorbills, common murres and thick-billed murres). The only alcid missing were puffins and if I had been able to spend more time at Southern Head, would no doubt have seen a puffin as well. I also had five species of gulls (herring, greater black-backed, black-legged kittiwakes, Bonapartes and Iceland), common loons, red-breasted mergansers, red-necked grebes, buffleheads, long-tailed ducks, mallards, American black duck, common eiders, black and surf scoters and northern gannet.

During count week, there were also 44 Canada geese migrating south and a sharp-shinned hawk in my neighbourhood.

The Christmas Bird Count has become an important indicator of population trends and is an amazing organizational feat. Even if you aren't an experienced birder, it is a great way to try to improve your birding skills, particularly if you can be paired with someone with more experience.

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