2018 Great Canadian Birdathon

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The St. Thomas Field Naturalists date for The Great Canadian Birdathon is May 12th. We will meet at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Rose Beach Line and Kent Bridge Rd, just outside of Rondeau Provincial Park. We will walk along Bates Dr to Pike St, back to vehicles via Rose Beach Line. We will then head into the park. Lunch will be at the Visitors Centre and those that wish can join us at Rondeau Joe’s for supper. For more info or to sponsor the club please phone Al Hurst 519-633-4235. All the money raised goes to bird conservation in Canada, a portion goes to Bird Studies Canada and a portion to St. Thomas Field Naturalists. Hope to see you there.

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Aylmer Tundra Swans 2018

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Tundra Pond showing Goose Island.

The Tundra Swans have arrived at Aylmer Wildlife Management Area, part of their initial staging area. They are currently averaging about 1000 Swans a day.
The Elgin Stewardship Council was formed in 1997 and has been looking after the area since then and feeds the swans 23 to 25 bushels of shelled corn every day about 9 a.m. There are volunteers each day from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to answer any questions.

The Tundra’s spend almost a third of the year going from their wintering grounds around Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina to their nesting areas on the West coast of Hudson Bay, Central High arctic or the Mackenzie Delta, up to a 6000 kilometer journey.

Aylmer WMA has 4 viewing stands, 2 of which are open and 2 which are enclosed (1 wheelchair accessible). This area has been declared a globally Important Bird Area and the ponds a Provincially Significant Wetland. Aylmer WMA is perhaps the best place in North America to see Tundra Swans up close.

Aylmer WMA was originally #14 Service Flying Training School RCAF until 1961.

The Aylmer-Malahide Museum offer a Tundra Swan Line you can call and find out how many Tundra Swans are at Aylmer WMA on that day, call 519-773-SWAN(7926).

To get to Aylmer WMA via GPS use 10594 Hacienda Rd, Aylmer, ON.

2017 Christmas Bird Count

 
2018 CBC
 

The CBC took root over a century ago when 27 birders in 25 localities from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California, led by ornithologist Frank Chapman, proposed a conservation-oriented alternative to the traditional ‘side hunt,’ a Christmas Day competition to hunt the most birds and small mammals. This alternative initiative to identify, count, and record all the birds found on Christmas Day 1900 has turned into one of North America’s longest-running wildlife monitoring programs.

St. Thomas has contributed since 1949, the 50th year of the original count, making this year the 69th count our club has participated in. We were over 1,000,000 birds counted in 2015. West Elgin participated 2 years earlier in 1947. 

To participate in this year’s count.
Contact: Allan or Jackie Sharpe
226-271-7018 or asharpe@outlook.com or jrochefort@outlook.com

2016 CBC results

Black Vulture in Port Stanley, photo by Ron Kingswood

Black Vulture in Port Stanley, photo by Ron Kingswood

The day was cut a little short by the heavy fog in afternoon. We had new species of Dunlin found on beach in Port Bruce and Black Vulture spotted on beach at Port Stanley during count week. We had new highs with Golden Eagle(3), Peregrine Falcon(2), Robin(501) and Fox Sparrow(10). This year had over 100 American Bluebirds and 2 Great Horned Owls. Other nice sightings were Greater and Lesser Scaup, American Coot, Glaucous Gull, Merlin and a good number of Bald Eagles(20). The count has had Turkey Vultures every year this century with the addition of the Black Vulture this year. Ruffed Grouse have been conspicuously absent for a decade. Also missing were Snowy Owl and warblers.

Here is the Species Total in pdf form.

Hawk Cliff weekends wrapping up

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Immature sharp-shinned hawk ready to depart after brief rest.

The weather on Saturdays was wet to say the least. Last Sunday saw about 150 people attend the Raptor Bander and Monarch Watch demonstrations. This year saw the addition of a parking lot on the recently acquired Hawk Cliff Woods property by Thames Talbot Land Trust.
The trust had a large tent set up for the talks, which really worked well for the rainy days.
The Land Trust will be having their dedication and official opening of Hawk Cliff Woods at 12:30 on Sept 19th. All are welcome.

Birds of Elgin County

Birds of Elgin County A Century of Change

This book has 44 colour plates of birds and their nests in Elgin, many photos with chicks taken by Ron Kingswood and William Rayner. There are 335 species reported as of writing of this book in Elgin and the book covers each bird over the 100 years, including Frank Farley’s observations in 1891 and Ron Broomans second edition in 1954. Each report has interesting tidbits about that bird as seen in the county. There are over 40 pages of Christmas Bird Count statistics for the two county nature clubs in existence at time of writing. Sketches of birds by our local artists including Candy McManiman, Pat Hartwell McLean and Diane Dobson.
There are a limited number of the 2004 book Birds of Elgin County A Century of Change still available
They are $25 for hard cover and $10 for soft cover. They can be picked up at any of the club meetings while supplies last. Shipping in Ontario will add $15 to the cost of either book. To purchase email asharpe@outlook.com
The book was written and compiled by the naturalists of Elgin County.

Hawk Cliff 2015 HawkWatch Summary

Red-tail Hawk --- photo by Mark Yurek

Red-tailed Hawk — photo by Mark Yurek

A few Hawk Cliff volunteers headed to the hawkwatch on August 21 to kick off the 2015 Hawk Cliff Hawkwatch season. Joined by many more in September, these volunteers eventually provided coverage until December 13, for a total of 117 count days, including 21 no-count days all of which were the result of inclement weather. In 2015, “inclement weather” usually meant rain, at times heavy, accompanied by strong southerly, (S, SW, SE) winds. Little snow was recorded during this hawk watch season, but observers did enjoy the unusually mild temperatures. Volunteers contributed a total of 518.25 hours, the highest number of hours’ coverage since the 2011 season. Again this year, our volunteers deserve a big thank-you for their dedication to the hawkwatch.

We’ve looked at the Birds per Hour (BPH) again for this summary which gives a truer feel for whether bird numbers were up or down compared to previous multi-year averages. This keeps the counts from being skewed by the assumption that the longer you spend on watch the more birds you see. This season we proved that assumption to be false. Compared to previous years, the 518.25 total hours for 2015 was only slightly below the past ten years’ average (539.20) so in terms of an average number of hours per day, we spent 4.47 hours per day for 117 days. Despite all those hours of observation, the total count in 2015 was only 53,559, far below the 15-year average of 67,246. Thus the total BPH was 103 for the season, much less than the 15-year average of 201 (2000-2014 inclusive).

The primary cause was the lack of a major Broadwing flight within range of observation from the hawkwatch. Our total for Broadwings was only 13,000 or only 10% of the highest count ever back in 2000 and well below the multi-year average of 33,400. Other species were also noticeably missing with our lowest ever count of Northern Goshawk (8) and nearly the lowest of Rough-legged (13). We did see our highest 1-day count ever though for Turkey Vultures (5,578) on Oct. 18, clearly a species that is not at risk in Ontario. All other species had lower BPH for 2015, many less than half the multi-year average. Let’s hope for bigger, better flights in 2016!