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2006 Hamilton Fall Bird Count

There were 14 species tallied this year in record-high numbers, three of these being ducks. Additionally several species of ducks were recorded in above-average numbers. For example all three scoters were abundant with Black Scoter numbers at record levels. Encouragingly, Canvasback were at record levels although these numbers are modest compared to other ducks. Most notable were Long-tailed Duck (Oldsquaw) numbers. Bill Crins, Barb Charlton & Ron Pittaway at Van Wagners Beach reported 100,000+ Oldsquaw! This is about double the previous high estimate in 2001. Now admittedly there has to be a great variance in estimates like this. These ducks are at a great distance and appear like an “oil slick” towards the horizon. How many there are is anybodies guess (or estimate if you will), but 100,000+ seems reasonable and I credit these bird counters for making the attempt. The Oldsquaw total is roughly 40% of all the birds seen on the count.

Turkey Vulture numbers were at levels 42% higher than on any previous count. One party reported an amazing 81 Turkey Vultures. This is an incredible number for this date but speaks to the rapid rise in Ontario Turkey Vulture numbers. The numbers of Red-bellied Woodpeckers this year, at 84, is 115% higher than the previous high count of 39 in 2002. This species is essentially as common now as the Hairy Woodpecker (which was also seen in record numbers in 2006) and may become more common than Hairy Woodpecker in the next few years if it isn’t already. Similarly the Pileated Woodpecker was at record levels this year with 12 individuals observed.

Northern Mockingbirds continue to increase in the HSA as a record 70 individuals were seen this year. However, this species range in the HSA is uneven. It is still a very uncommon breeder in the Brantford area and the Six Nations I.R. Other species seen in near record-high numbers this year include Common Goldeneye, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Swamp Sparrow and House Sparrow. The House Sparrow count was interesting as this species is purported to be undergoing a decline in North America, including Ontario. However one cannot read too much into the count results, as “party hours” may be a factor in this. The “party hours” total this year was an all-time record at 379.7 hours. This is no doubt due to the near-record number of participants this year (117) and the record number of parties (56) plus the good weather from dawn to dusk which encouraged people to stay in the field. Thus with an increased count effort this year, it is not surprising that some species would be at record levels. Numbers of species such as Black-capped Chickadee and perhaps House Sparrow would be very sensitive to any change in “party hours”.

Of course there are always negatives on all counts but there were few on this count. Misses included Red-shouldered Hawk and Tufted Titmouse. The miss of the Red-shoulder was not surprising as it was not a hawk-flight day. The Tufted Titmouse is kind of perplexing in the HSA. It seems that at times it becomes common enough that it is poised to finally colonize the region, but then it fades away. It may be years before it is ever common in the HSA. Other negatives on the count…