This year’s count became part of the fall 2005 Cave Swallow sensation in Ontario as 10 Cave Swallows were seen along the Stoney Creek shoreline by the Bill Smith, Jim Cram, Jim Dowall, Alf Senior party. This was a first for the fall count and was certainly the highlight. Three other parties observed “square-tailed swallows” fly overhead without being able to ID them. This must have been very frustrating as all of these could have been Cave Swallows. However, it is far from a certainty as both Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows were seen as flyovers on the count.
Another species new to the count was the Wood Thrush found by Mark Jennings at Burloak Woods. This species is an excellent date rarity. Other good birds found on this year’s count include Common Raven (2) (2nd count record), Common Moorhen and Pomarine Jaeger (2) (4th count records), Common Tern and Black-throated Blue Warbler (5th count records), Red-eyed Vireo and Northern Rough-winged Swallow (6th count records), Marsh Wren (7th count record) and Harlequin Duck, House Wren and Lincoln’s Sparrow (8th count records). This was the first year four species of wren were seen, and the first year that three species of swallow were counted. Although counting conditions were not ideal, there were a few species observed in record-high numbers including Black-crowned Night-Heron, Mute Swan, Surf Scoter, Carolina Wren and White-throated Sparrow. Conversely, Great Black-backed Gull was at an all-time low, probably the result of this species not having moved into the area yet due to the unseasonably warm weather this fall.
Other low-lights on the count were shorebird totals. Only six species were seen this year and of those some were in very low numbers including Dunlin and Pectoral Sandpiper. Lack of suitable habitat or lack of shorebirds? Hard to say. Finch numbers and diversity were also pathetic with only four species observed. Evening Grosbeak was missed for the 4th straight year and Purple Finch and Pine Siskin were barely recorded. Other negatives this year were the absences of Northern Shrike and Rough-legged Hawk for only the 3rd time each on a fall count. Additionally Red-shouldered Hawk and Tufted Titmouse went unrecorded. Likely all of the above four species would have been seen if the gale force winds had not materialized.