For the 77th Annual Thunder Bay Christmas Bird count, a record 46 birders subdivided into 14 groups combed the 15-mile diameter count circle searching for the usual regular count day birds as well as the unique and truly rare occurrences for the late December event 

In what seems typical fashion, the weather was unpredictable. Following a blustery and blizzard-like conditions on Christmas Day evening which lasted until the wee hours of the morning, birders ventured out in rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow, and a general decreasing temperature trend throughout the day. For most areas, the conditions meant that feeders were bountiful with active birds seeking food following the storm. The Christmas Day storm followed what had been 10 days of cold weather that allowed the harbour to finally freeze and forced many late waterfowl migrants to travel south just prior to count week.

For count day, birders ended up positively ID’ing 51 species. The 10-year running average for count day is ~48 species, making this years count day better than average. The total number of birds seen was 9860, above the 10-year average of 8694.

Unusual absentees for the count included Northern Shrike (seen on 56 counts; last missed in 1986) and American Black Duck (only missed 4 times in the last 20 years). Other more common species that were missed included: Boreal Chickadee (49 counts), Common Grackle (38 counts), and Northern Goshawk (22 counts). A count of only 2 Mallards was unusually low (a normal year has been about 66 since last missed in 1993). Record high counts also included 55 Common Mergansers (previous record was 21 in 2007), 1564 American Crows (last years record was 1521).

Unusual birds for the CBC included 5 Short-eared Owls (record 5; recorded only on 3 other counts), 1 Carolina Wren (second record since a count week bird in 2006), and 4 Ring-billed Gulls (first record since 1982). There were also two new species added to the Thunder Bay Christmas Bird Count; Slaty-backed Gull and Chukar (Exotic/Feral). This brings the CBC bird list up to 122 species (+ two morphs).

Amongst the field parties, the highest species count was Area 10 with 28 species, followed by Area 11 with 23 species, and Area 12 and 14 with 22 species. Highest individual count was Area 11 with 2268.

Seven mammal species were observed, 96 red squirrels topping the list. Only 39 white-tailed deer were seen, down from previous years but consistent with last year. Interesting sightings included two Otter’s and two sets of Grey Wolf tracks.

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

I wish to thank the record number of participants that attended the 77th Thunder Bay CBC. Also, thank you to Sue and Mike Bryan for hosting the pot-luck supper and compilation after the count, and to all the volunteers that helped make the dinner and clean-up run so smoothly.