by Bill Lamond
HFBC Results: Here is an assortment of photos of Hamilton Cave Swallows from this year. It’s difficult to photograph very small flying birds on very windy days. The 32nd annual Hamilton Fall Bird Count (HFBC) was conducted under less than ideal weather conditions on Sunday November 6, 2005. This is quite an understatement.
At dawn, foggy conditions prevailed in much of the area giving way soon after to thunderstorms (a count first!) and heavy rainfall in some areas (with some hail!) for up to an hour. Then intermittent showers prevailed until noon. Then things really got going. The wind! Undoubtedly the windiest fall count of them all. In the afternoon the wind was steady at 60kph with gusts up to 90kph. It was literally hazardous to walk in the woods.
Here is a sample of volunteer comments: “then the winds came in with such force it was hard to find and ID anything that wasn’t grounded or obvious”; “So windy, I couldn’t hear a damn thing!”; “a wet leaf in the face at 50-60 kph is not a pleasant experience”; “I’ve never seen so many whitecaps on Lake Ontario”; “the wind was so great that the small party nervously walked in well treed areas”; and “Appalling. Very strong west winds made it almost unbirdable and certainly kept passerines largely hunkered down and difficult to find.” However, not everyone was adversely affected as one party from the Dundas Valley stated, “high winds did not affect us in the valley.” Indeed quite a day weather-wise with just about everything: fog, thunder, lightning, heavy rain, light rain, hail, sun, rainbows, high winds and temperatures warming to an unseasonable 17°C at noon and then slowly decreasing to about 10°C at dusk.
Although the afternoon was largely a write-off for finding birds, the morning, despite the rain, was quite birdy. Several areas had excellent results between the showers, with some groups stating that birds seemed to be almost everywhere especially robins, waxwings and sparrows. This no doubt explains how most species were seen in near average levels. I have always noticed, too, that the morning is the best time for finding birds and that the mid-afternoon can sometimes be slow for birds. My point is that the high winds, although useless for landbird finding, did not materialize until after the prime bird-finding time, thus not affecting final results too much. It would have been a much different story if the winds had prevailed from first light.