Thunder Bay Christmas Bird Count 2015 by Nick Escott

On our traditional count day, December 26, a hardy group of 42 observers in 14 groups scoured the 15-mile diameter count circle and counted any and all birds (and mammals) that could be seen or, in the case of the birds, heard.

The weather was a bit challenging, with light snow on and off most of the day, a cold on-shore breeze from Lake Superior, which remained mostly open water, and a high temperature of -7° C.

Nevertheless, a total of 49 bird species was tallied, plus one distinct subspecies, an Oregon Junco. This total is right on the average for the past 10 years. The record high species count was 58 species in 2006.

The total number of birds was 7821, a bit below the past 10-year average of 8760, which was somewhat surprising given the exceptionally mild weather we had experienced leading up to count day. Except for Common Redpolls, winter finches were in lower than normal numbers. Other species that have seen higher counts in the past, although they vary from year to hear due to weather conditions and observer effort, include Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, European Starling, and House Sparrow.

Record high counts were recorded for Bald Eagle (246), Glaucous Gull (23) and American crow (1521). Two new species were added to the cumulative list, Long-eared Owl (previously “count week” only), and Eastern Towhee (probably seen before, but previously lumped with Spotted Towhee as “Rufous-sided” Towhee). Other highlights included a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Townsend’s Solitaire in Vickers Heights, a female Ruddy Duck in the harbour, and a female Harlequin Duck in the Kam River, photographed by Mike Childs.

Amongst the field parties, the highest species count was by Brian Ratcliff and Nancy Parish in Vickers Heights with 24 species, closely followed by Sue and Mike Bryan in the Current River area with 23, and Jeremy Bryan in the northern segment of the circle with 22 species.

Eight mammal species were observed, 104 red squirrel topping the list. Only 33 white-tailed deer were seen, down from previous years. An otter was seen in the McKellar River, and most unusual was an Eastern Chipmunk on First Street.

The total count can be viewed in table format by clicking here.

I wish to thank all the participants who braved the weather to make this another successful bird count (our 76th!), also Sue and Mike Bryan for hosting the pot-luck supper and compilation after the count, and Debbie and Cathy for helping with the dinner. See you all next year!