Common Loons © Mike MacLeod

2006 Fall Bird Count (FBC) Report

by Bill Lamond

The 33rd annual Hamilton Fall Bird Count (HFBC) was conducted on 5 November 2006. This was one of the most outstanding counts of them all, if not the most outstanding. A record total of 147 species were recorded which is three species above the all-time high of 144 set in 2002. There were three new species added this year which is striking for a count in its 33rd year. These were: Cattle Egret seen by Rick Dowson, Barry Jones and George Pond along Hwy #6 north of Hewitt’s Dairy; Varied Thrush seen by Dennis Lewington and Gary Hamann along the Dofasco Trail between 2nd & 3rd Rd E; and the long-staying Yellow-throated Warbler seen by Mark Jennings and Dan Olech at the base of the Petro-Canada Pier in Bronte. It was most unfortunate that the Eastern Kingbird that was hanging around at this latter location from 31 October to 4 Nov did not spend another day and be recorded on the fall count. Had it been recorded, it may have been the most unlikely bird thus far recorded on a fall count. Nonetheless, it gets listed as a “count period” bird for this count.

There were several “significant species” seen on this year’s count. As stated in Birds of Hamilton, species seen on 20% or fewer fall counts (six counts) are considered “significant species” for the HFBC and 11 of these species were seen in 2006. Through the years, some species will be added to this list and others will be dropped based on their changing status in the Hamilton area. Other than the new birds listed above, the other “significant species” seen in 2006 were Sora and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow (2nd count records), Common Raven (3rd count record-now 3 years in a row and likely to become regular), White-eyed Vireo and Bay-breasted Warbler (4th count records), Green Heron (5th count record and first since 1991), and American Redstart and Pomarine Jaeger (5th count records). Other good records on the count include the 7th count records of Lesser Black-backed Gull and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, 8th count records for American Golden Plover (first record since 1988) and Black-legged Kittiwake, 9th count records of Harlequin Duck, House Wren and Lincoln’s Sparrow, and 10th count records of Golden Eagle and Tree Swallow. Other interesting sightings were Brant, Osprey, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Thrasher and Savannah Sparrow. It was also nice to see better than average numbers for Eastern Towhee and Eastern Meadowlark.

The weather on this years count was good for bird counting: No precipitation and moderate winds. Temperatures were seasonal and the day was largely 100% overcast. The only downside to the day were the SW winds which precluded any notable hawk flight. Usually this would also produce poor conditions for “pelagics” at Lake Ontario however we nonetheless recorded kittiwake and Pomarine Jaeger.

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.