The 99th Hamilton Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on Thursday, December 26 in Hamilton, Ontario.
The Hamilton CBC count circle centres upon Dundurn Castle; it 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 cool and damp. It was overcast, with the thermometer ranging between 0°C and 3°C, humidity near 100%, and a very light and brief misting rain on a couple occasions. Light winds began from the east but shifted north by the end of the day.
A record-setting one hundred and nine participants either set out to count in the field or watch birdfeeders, with twenty-two counters working alone and the rest forming a total thirty different groups. A total of 359.75 hours effort was put in by the participants (also a record high), with a resulting 97 different species observed, plus another 4 on the count week, giving a result of 101 species countable. This is only slightly below both the 10-year (103.8 species) and 25-year (102.3 species) averages.
A total of 37,165 individual birds were counted on the count day. This is 11,034 below the 10-year average and 25,598 below the 25-year average. It is only 802 above the lowest year in the last 40 years.
The lower count numbers can be partly explained by the lack of cover ice over the waterways. In years where ice is prevalent there tends to be much higher concentrations of waterfowl in our count circle.
Waterfowl numbers do not explain it all, however, as passerine species counted at 12,164 represent a new 25-year low. Raptor species counted at 139 individuals represents a low not seen since 1999, which had 92 counted.
Another “low” record set was the complete absence of the Green-winged Teal. This represents the first count day in the modern count (since the circle was standardized in 1955) that did not have this species found. It was also not found during count week, making this species a complete miss this year.
A total of seven historical high species counts were set this year. In spite of the low waterfowl numbers, three of these records are of duck species.
The White-winged Scoters showed up in plentiful numbers, with a counted total of 1,604, almost 500 more than the previous record set in 2016.
Red-breasted Mergansers had a strong showing with 781 counted, nearly 200 over the historic record last set in 2009.
Barrow’s Goldeneye made its 7th appearance in the Hamilton count, but with just one individual counted ties with all the previous appearances. What makes this year different however, was the additional appearance of a hybrid Barrow’s x Common Goldeneye. One could say this sets a new record at 1.5 Barrow’s Goldeneyes, however it is unlikely the CBC database will accept this count, so will be left at one.
Another species with a similar pattern of appearances, Kumlien’s Gull, made a solo appearance, tying the record of one again. Currently this taxon is considered a sub-species of Iceland Gull however, so did not count towards the species count as it would have long ago.
Gray Catbirds were found in multiple locations, with a total count of 4 individuals. This species shows up once and a while, usually as lone individuals, but until this year were never more than 2 counted in the entire circle.
Common Raven set a record yet again, this year at 6 counted individuals. This species first appeared in 2003, and has only been missed once in the last 10 years of the count, making it a new regular.
Two perennial record-setters have shown no signs of slowing down.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers have set another record at 115 counted. This species first appeared in the 1979 count, but didn’t truly begin to establish until the 2000s. Since 2001, it has not missed a year.
Carolina Wren have hit a new record of 122 counted, showing now in all parts of the circle. This species has appeared in the count nonstop since 1994. Prior to that it had always been something found in very small numbers every few years.
A lone Marsh Wren was found on count day near Eramosa Karst Conservation Area, representing the first one found on count day since 1982.
Also of note, the Winter Wren, while only matching a 10-year record of 25 counted, has appeared in far more locations than usual. Typically found in Hendrie Valley and Cootes in good numbers, those locations reported lower than usual numbers. Instead, the species this year appeared in small numbers fairly evenly across the circle.
Ten-year high count records were set with the following species: Redhead (284), Common Goldeneye (3,117), Common Merganser (2,060), Downy Woodpecker (248), Hairy Woodpecker (103), Northern Flicker (11), and Song Sparrow (46).
Conversely, ten-year lows were set with: American Black Duck (137), American Coot (8), and Red-tailed Hawk (89).
Twenty-five year lows were set for Black-capped Chickadee (928), and Sharp-shinned Hawk (2).
Other highlights of the count include: a lone Rusty Blackbird in Stoney Creek, an Eastern Towhee found on Artaban Road in count week, five Cackling Goose found in a quarry, a lone King Eider and a hybrid Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser was seen in Hamilton Harbour.
Thank you to all of our counters and those who contributed count week birds. We saw many new feeder watchers this year, and hope to continue adding more as we approach our hundredth count next year. A final report with a full list of all our counters will be in a future issue of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club journal, The Wood Duck.
The raw data: * = New highest record in count history (99 years) *10y = Highest count in last 10 years *25y = Highest count in last 25 years CW = Count Week species Participants: *109 Hours-effort: *359.75 Count day species: 97 Spuhs/slashes: 5 Hybrids: 2 Count week species: 4 Total species: 101 Species counts (in taxonomic order) Cackling Goose 5 Canada Goose 5,712 Mute Swan 77 Trumpeter Swan 106 Tundra Swan 8 Northern Shoveler 73 Gadwall 47 American Wigeon 1 Mallard 4,015 American Black Duck 137 Northern Pintail 1 Canvasback 209 *10y Redhead 284 Ring-necked Duck 71 Greater Scaup 1,119 Lesser Scaup 452 King Eider 1 Surf Scoter 28 * White-winged Scoter 1,604 Black Scoter 5 Long-tailed Duck 2,236 Bufflehead 316 *10y Common Goldeneye 3,117 * Barrow's Goldeneye 1 Barrow's x Common Goldeneye (hybrid) 1 Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser (hybrid) 1 Hooded Merganser 174 *10y Common Merganser 2,060 * Red-breasted Merganser 781 Ruddy Duck 291 Wild Turkey 22 Pied-billed Grebe 1 Horned Grebe 3 Red-necked Grebe 3 Rock Pigeon 1,297 Mourning Dove 889 American Coot 8 Ring-billed Gull 1,127 Herring Gull 568 Iceland Gull 1 * Iceland Gull (kumlieni) 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull 2 Glaucous Gull 1 Great Black-backed Gull 84 gull sp. 5 Red-throated Loon CW Common Loon 6 loon sp. 1 Double-crested Cormorant 91 Great Blue Heron 4 Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 Northern Harrier CW Sharp-shinned Hawk 2 Cooper's Hawk 19 Bald Eagle 5 Red-tailed Hawk 89 hawk sp. 3 Eastern Screech-Owl 8 Great Horned Owl 3 Belted Kingfisher 7 * Red-bellied Woodpecker 115 *10y Downy Woodpecker 248 *10y Hairy Woodpecker 103 Downy/Hairy Woodpecker 2 Pileated Woodpecker 10 *10y Northern Flicker 11 American Kestrel 4 Merlin 3 Peregrine Falcon 3 Northern Shrike 4 Blue Jay 314 American Crow 556 * Common Raven 6 Black-capped Chickadee 928 Tufted Titmouse 4 Red-breasted Nuthatch 14 White-breasted Nuthatch 203 Brown Creeper 17 Winter Wren 25 *25y Marsh Wren 1 * Carolina Wren 122 Golden-crowned Kinglet 23 Eastern Bluebird 24 Hermit Thrush 3 American Robin 448 * Gray Catbird 4 Northern Mockingbird 15 European Starling 2,631 Cedar Waxwing 333 House Finch 314 Common Redpoll 2 Pine Siskin 2 American Goldfinch 645 Snow Bunting 1 Chipping Sparrow 2 American Tree Sparrow 113 Dark-eyed Junco 724 White-crowned Sparrow 5 White-throated Sparrow 90 Song Sparrow 46 Swamp Sparrow 4 Eastern Towhee CW Brown-headed Cowbird 1 Rusty Blackbird 1 Common Grackle CW blackbird sp. 2 Yellow-rumped Warbler 2 Northern Cardinal 438 House Sparrow 1,415 TOTAL COUNTED 37,165
Save the date: on December 7, 2020 we’ll be celebrating the 100th Hamilton Christmas Bird Count during the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club general meeting. All are welcomed. See https://hamiltonnature.org/ closer to the date for details.
Compiler, 99th Hamilton Christmas Bird Count