The 98th Hamilton Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 in Hamilton, Ontario.
The Hamilton CBC count circle centres upon Dundurn Castle, and is bounded in the west by Christie Lake, in the east by Lake Ontario, in the north by Lake Medad, and in the south by Hamilton International Airport. It includes two Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs): West End of Lake Ontario (WELO) IBA, and Dundas Valley & Dundas Marsh IBA.
The weather on count day was quite novel for the Hamilton CBC, in that the weather was decent for once! With partly sunny weather and a high of 2°C, and light winds from the WSW, no counters had major complaints about the weather.
Eighty-nine counters broke into forty-seven parties, spending just under 318 hours-effort (a historic high) exploring sixty zones to net 96 observed species on count day, plus another 5 during the count week, totaling a result of 101 species countable. This is 4 below the 25-year average, but 2 above the 50-year average.
This count saw efforts from two forms of transport not seen in the count in recent memory: by bike, and by canoe. Much of Hamilton downtown core on count day was covered by bicycle, while an even warmer day during the count week netted a count-week species in Cootes Paradise by canoe.
The sum of all birds counted on the count day was 45,306 individuals. This is 7,896 below the 10-year average, 18,331 below the 25-year average, and 19,392 below the 50-year average.
While overall population numbers are below average, this was a record-setting year in a surprising number of ways. As a consequence of all the new set records included within, this may very well be a count report of record-setting length…
An exceptional thirteen historical high species count records were either set or tied, including two new species never seen before in the count. This translates to roughly one in every eight of species seen this year had a historic record-high year, in a nearly century-long count!
First off, 20 Pileated Woodpeckers were counted, breaking the 2004 record of 14. Five of them were noted in one zone, and the rest as singles and pairs spread across forested areas. It is very good news to see this species on the incline, as individuals of this species require large amounts of mature forest.
Belted Kingfisher saw a tie in the 1971 record of 13 counted. No doubt the lack of ice in the waterways so far this winter has allowed more of these birds to fish in the local streams and waterways with ease.
A total of 58 Eastern Bluebirds were observed, breaking the 2011 record of 52.
A record 25 Cooper’s Hawks were observed, beating the 2010 record of 23 counted.
Cackling Goose has seen a new high of 8 counted, though it has only been considered a species separate from Canada Goose for just over a decade so it does not have as long of a history to compete with as other species do.
Turkey Vulture saw a record of 3 individuals seen, all flying over the Dundas & west Hamilton area.
For the second year in a row we have set a record of Bald Eagles observed, with a total of 14 counted.
Double-crested Cormorant hit a count of 140, beating the 2015 record of 110.
Once again the Carolina Wren has set a record, with 111 individuals counted. This species showed up in big numbers in many zones, as well as being present at many feeders and new zones this year.
Two Gray Catbirds were found, one which had been known to be in Mt Albion Conservation Area for a while, as well as another in Stoney Creek.
Two Orange-crowned Warblers were found in separate locations, setting a record count for this rare winter warbler.
The final two record highs are single individuals, both also being new species to our count: Fish Crow, and Eurasian Collared-Dove. Remarkably, both represent species that are expanding their range into Southern Ontario and are not happenstance vagrants like most new species added to the list usually are.
In addition to these historical records set, two 25-year records and five 10-year record highs were set.
Great Blue Heron was counted at 21, and House Sparrow was counted at 3,030 — both being 25-year highs.
Ten-year records broken include: Snowy Owl (3), Bufflehead (529), Rock Pigeon (3,951), White-breasted Nuthatch (280), Hairy Woodpecker (97).
Some record lows of note were set as well.
Much like many other Ontario Christmas Bird Counts this year, there was a dearth American Tree Sparrows; furthermore to that however, we have set a historic low of 106.
Other lows of note: Trumpeter Swan (52, 10y low), American Kestrel (4, 50y low), Northern Flicker (2, 10y low), European Starling (2,212, 50y low), Dark-eyed Junco (602, 10y low).
It should also be noted that native passerines (perching birds) in general saw a 10-year record low, with only 6,170 counted.
In addition to the above records, a couple milestones of note were met: this year saw us count our 1 millionth waterfowl since the standard circle was introduced, with our waterfowl count sitting now at 1,016,692. Additionally, our overall count has breached 3.5 million birds, now at 3,544,907.
Other highlights include a lone Common Yellowthroat in Cootes Paradise, and the first Eastern Meadowlark in the count since 1995 at Heritage Green Park in Stoney Creek. Also, Northern Goshawk has appeared for the third year in a row, this time as a count week species.
Thank-you to all of our counters and local birders who contributed count-week birds. This year saw many new names added to the list of counters, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Hamilton Naturalists’ journal, The Wood Duck.
Rob Porter, compiler
The raw data: * = New highest record in count history (last 98 years) ** = New species for count *25y = Highest count in last 25 years *10y = Highest count in last 10 years CW = Count Week species Participants: 89 Hours-effort: *317.95 Count day species: 96 Spuhs/slashes: 6 Hybrids: 1 Count week species: 5 Total species: 101 Species (in taxonomic order) * Cackling Goose 8 Canada Goose 6,972 Mute Swan 53 Trumpeter Swan 52 Tundra Swan 2 Northern Shoveler 178 Gadwall 60 Mallard 4,976 American Black Duck 183 Mallard x American Black Duck (hybrid) 1 Northern Pintail 4 Green-winged Teal 2 Canvasback 150 Redhead 46 Ring-necked Duck 111 Greater Scaup 553 Lesser Scaup 524 Surf Scoter 67 White-winged Scoter 801 Black Scoter 2 Long-tailed Duck 6,327 *10y Bufflehead 529 Common Goldeneye 1,602 Hooded Merganser 178 Common Merganser 883 Red-breasted Merganser 311 Ruddy Duck 75 duck sp. 9 Wild Turkey 50 Pied-billed Grebe 2 Red-necked Grebe 2 *10y Rock Pigeon 3,951 ** Eurasian Collared-Dove 1 Mourning Dove 705 American Coot 52 Ring-billed Gull 1,081 Herring Gull 3,363 Iceland Gull 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull 1 Glaucous Gull 5 Great Black-backed Gull 156 gull sp. 229 Common Loon 2 * Double-crested Cormorant 140 *25y Great Blue Heron 21 Black-crowned Night-Heron 4 * Turkey Vulture 3 Northern Harrier 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk 10 * Cooper's Hawk 25 Northern Goshawk CW accipiter sp. 1 * Bald Eagle 14 Red-tailed Hawk 95 Eastern Screech-Owl 5 Great Horned Owl 2 *10y Snowy Owl 3 Long-eared Owl CW * Belted Kingfisher 13 Red-bellied Woodpecker 91 Downy Woodpecker 230 *10y Hairy Woodpecker 97 Downy/Hairy Woodpecker 5 * Pileated Woodpecker 20 Northern Flicker 2 woodpecker sp. 2 American Kestrel 4 Merlin 5 Peregrine Falcon 5 Northern Shrike 2 Blue Jay 294 American Crow 450 ** Fish Crow 1 Common Raven 2 Black-capped Chickadee 1,185 Tufted Titmouse 4 Red-breasted Nuthatch 66 *10y White-breasted Nuthatch 280 Brown Creeper 35 Winter Wren 21 * Carolina Wren 111 Golden-crowned Kinglet 41 * Eastern Bluebird 58 Hermit Thrush 2 American Robin 187 * Gray Catbird 2 Northern Mockingbird 20 European Starling 2,212 Cedar Waxwing 134 House Finch 288 Purple Finch CW Common Redpoll 44 Pine Siskin 108 American Goldfinch 471 Chipping Sparrow 1 American Tree Sparrow 106 Dark-eyed Junco 609 White-crowned Sparrow 2 White-throated Sparrow 66 Song Sparrow 22 Swamp Sparrow 5 Eastern Meadowlark CW blackbird sp. 1 * Orange-crowned Warbler 2 Common Yellowthroat 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler CW Northern Cardinal 384 *25y House Sparrow 3,030 TOTAL 45,306 -- A selection of historic data (since current circle started, 1955) below: Total birds counted: 3,544,907 By type Waterfowl: 1,016,692 Game fowl: 4,739 Raptor: 11,278 Seabird: 252,149 Shorebird: 58 Passerine: 2,259,991 By provenance Native species: 1,621,189 Introduced species: 1,923,718 Count day species: 191* Count week-only species: 7 All species: 191 + 7 = 198 * Note: net +1 since last year, from two gained during this count and one lost due to Thayer's Gull demotion from species status --