Sunday, January 10, 2010

Week Two of the January Bird Count

"All the birds had fled..."

I was out on trail every day this week but one looking for birds to add to my January total. I know where to look and dressed for the bitter cold each day after work to take an hour or so to check a woodlot, stream or river for any living thing. My husband and I drove north of the city yesterday where we would be sure to find a Snowy Owl or Bald Eagle but came up with only two new birds in several hours of searching. I was reading the reports of recent Christmas Bird Counts in Ontario and saw comments like, "never have so many people turned out to look for so few birds".

American Tree Sparrow and a White-throated Sparrow at a feeder

A bitter cold snap has affected much of the continent. My daughter in the north of Mexico was telling me that the water in her dog's dish was frozen yesterday and that she could see her breath inside the house. So I have no complaints. With central heating and city services which are accustomed to dealing with snowfall and cold temperatures, I am not inconvenienced at all. And I am happy I am not a bird looking for food and warmth outside.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Our bird feeders at home are busy with the usual customers with the addition of a Coopers Hawk who is dropping by a few times a day looking for an easy meal. So far we have not seen evidence of a kill. I ended up seeing the most birds at the feeder at the Guelph Lake Nature Centre featured in my last post. Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Purple Finches are not seen commonly and both were enjoying the free black sunflower seeds.

Purple Finch at Guelph Lake

Other sightings of note away from feeders included;-
  • A large flock of Snow Buntings
  • Horned Larks congregated on a gravel road
  • A Rough-legged hawk hunting over a field next to the road
The last two years there have been large flocks of winter finches such as Crossbills, Redpolls and Pine Siskins. They are notably absent this year. I went to the pine grove where they were seen consistently last year and noticed that the trees which were laden with cones last year have very few cones this year. Many trees had none at all. Each season is unique. I now have a total of 31 birds with a goal of 45 by the end of the month.


  1. We also had a very disappointing Christmas Bird Count. The weather was quite cold and snow-covered roads prohibited visits to some areas. On a positive note, we are seeing great activity at our feeders during this prolonged freeze.

  2. We set out a bird bath this summer, and it was never used. We set out a heated one (for drinking I had thought), but it hasn't been used either. Although I'd like some visitors, I don't know if I want to get into the feeding of the critters.

  3. It seems that there are fewer birds this year. You still are seeing some really great birds.I think the Red-bellied Woodpecker is such a gorgeous bird,of course all birds are beautiful in their own way.

  4. Here in Niger, the blue and purple starlings are back - I'm waiting to see if there will be more...

    Happy New Year from Africa, Ruth!

  5. The purple finch is beautiful. I've never seen one of those. Sure hope the missing birds have found a warm place with plenty of food.

  6. Hi Ruth....I love the fact that you take this count so is such important data. We always get a great response in the UK when the bird count weekend starts.

    The purple finch is such an interesting bird....I have never seen anything like it.

  7. You got great captures of the birds you did see. I'm not counting, but seems about the same here. Though it's rather scary to hear of less birds anywhere. A bad sign.

  8. I was a Riverside Sat morning. I sure would like to thank the person that hang up about 15 pine cones laced with peanut butter mixed with bird seeds. I watch the birds for about 20 minutes. I saw American Tree Sparrows, Chickadees, Blue Jays, Purple Finches, White Breasted Nuthatch, House Sparrows, Red-Bellied woodpecker, Cardinals. They were all hanging around these pine cones. It sure made my day.

    But I too have noticed that there are fewer birds this year. I had yet to see Grosbeaks this year at Riverside, but like you said there are NO pine cones from the trees this year. Keeping counting...I'm sure you will make your goal.

  9. 31 is pretty darn good with half the month to go Ruth! :c) I have a Purple Finch couple coming to my feeders too now. Last year, the Pine Siskins were irruptive here and I have to say that I am happy they've found plenty of food up north. I had ginormous flocks along with Salmonella.

  10. Good for you toughing out the weather like the weather like that! It sounds like you are well on your way to your goal and that you are enjoying yourself on some levels.I'll be looking forward to your next update.


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