Common Loons © Mike MacLeod

2008 Fall Bird Count (FBC) Report

by Bill Lamond

The Hamilton Fall Bird Count (HFBC) for 2008 was a decidedly mundane affair. Although the species total (133) was pretty much average there were no exciting species observed on 2 November 2008. No new species were recorded on this count and very few species were observed that one would want to drive very far to view. Nonetheless, most observers seemed pleased with their results although a few reported that birds seemed to be in short supply compared to most years. Here are some comments from some observers: ?numbers of birds seemed very low compared to past years?; ?disappointing given the weather?; ?the day was remarkable more for the paltry number of individuals of most species?; and ?on such a beautiful day I was really surprised that bird numbers were down?. Nonetheless other observers had a different view, such as: ?numbers of birds were pretty good for many species. I found it to be quite lively despite the winds?.

There were few ?significant species? on this years count. Significant species are defined as species seen on 20% or fewer counts, thus for a count in its 35th year, species seen on seven or fewer counts are deemed significant. Only six significant species were observed on the 2008 count. These were Cackling Goose & Nelson?s Sharp-tailed Sparrow (3rd count records); Glaucous Gull (4th count record); Common Raven (5th count record); and Sandhill Crane & Swainson?s Thrush (7th count records). Four of the above species are likely to come off this list in the near future. Common Raven is now resident in the Hamilton Study Area (HSA) and has been recorded on the last five counts and will likely be annual from here on in. Similarly Sandhill Crane has become fairly routine in the HSA as a migrant and it has been recorded on seven counts since first being recorded on the HFBC in 1992. Likewise Cackling Goose, since its elevation to full-species status, has been recorded on three of the last seven counts and now that it is being looked for, it is being found. Also, Nelson Sharp-tailed Sparrow might someday be off this list as it is now being searched for on each count in its traditional haunts in Cootes Paradise and has been recorded there in three of the last six counts.

There were other noteworthy species seen on the count such as Osprey (3 parties), Golden Eagle (3 parties), Lesser-black-backed Gull, Snowy Owl (first record since 1992), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (3 parties) and Northern Rough-winged Swallow (8th count record). There were 11 species recorded in record-high totals in 2008. Not surprisingly Trumpeter Swan had its best showing and there is no reason to think that each succeeding year won?t produce a new record. Three other waterfowl species had record-high counts including Wood Duck, Canvasback, and Ruddy Duck. This is good news for the Canvasback which has has always been a concern for conservation ….

biologists. In regards to the Ruddy Duck, it has had a steady climb in numbers on the HFBC since the early 1990s. Pileated Woodpecker numbers have more or less doubled on the count since the mid 90s. This could indicate an actual increase or it could be a function of increased party hours. This could also be the case with the Sharp-shinned Hawk although local hawk counts have also noted an increase in this species. Passerines in record numbers included Red-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren and Pine Siskin. Red-breasted Nuthatch record totals are probably just due to chance. Surprisingly to me was the fact that I could not find a Red-breasted Nuthatch this year despite visiting suitable habitats were they usually are. Go figure! For the Carolina Wren, it seems hard for most birders to imagine that this species was only sporadically reported on the HFBC in the late 70s and early 80s. It has been a long time since this species was very uncommon in the HSA. Lastly, the Pine Siskin had a real banner year on the fall count. This species, being a finch, always undergoes startling fluctuations in abundance. For example, it has been missed on 20% of counts and less than 10 individuals have been recorded on four other counts. However, the previous record of 560 in 1980 was shattered by the 1,505 tallied this year. Almost all parties reported Pine Siskin in 2008.