This Sharp-tailed Grouse was spotted during the Christmas Bird Count in Balmoral, high up in tree during the late afternoon Dec. 16, while it was eating buds. During the summer this species forages on the ground and eat seeds, leaves, and insects, especially grasshoppers. On winter nights they often plunge or burrow into and sleep as much as two feet under the snow, which insulates them it from the cold. See story on page 2 of your Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times. (Photo Submitted)
Why did the prairie chicken cross the road? To get counted in the 55th annual Balmoral Christmas Bird Count of course.
As many as 30 intrepid volunteers ventured out into the cold Dec. 16 to count birds.
Not only were birds counted, but volunteers in the count had winter fun with family and friends. Even though the Balmoral bird count has been going on for a while now, this citizen science project celebrated its impressive 118th anniversary this year. The annual event began in 1900 and is regarded as North America’s longest-running volunteer bird monitoring project. Counts happen in over 2000 localities throughout the Western Hemisphere.
The information collected by thousands of volunteer participants forms one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife survey data. The results are used daily by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess the population trends and distribution of birds. Each Christmas Bird Count is conducted on a single day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. Counts are carried out within a 24 kilometre diameter circle that stays the same from year to year. They are organized, usually as group efforts, at the local level, often by a birding club or naturalist organization. I gladly took on the role of coordinating the Balmoral count in its 32nd year under somewhat unusual circumstances. In 1994, my wife Patsy and I purchased the farm from Catherine and George Thexton who originated the Balmoral bird count in 1963. Perhaps for the first and only time in real estate history, a unique “condition of sale” for purchasing the house and farm was to take over as coordinator of the local bird count.w
This year a total of 1,761 birds of 22 species (plus redpoll spp.) were identified and counted including: 526 Snow Buntings, 203 Black-capped Chickadees, 173 Common Redpolls, 153 unidentified Redpoll species, 152 House Sparrows, 107 Blue Jays, 100 Common Ravens, 80 Bohemian Waxwings, 79 Pine Grosbeaks, 48 Black-billed Magpies, 34 White-breasted Nuthatches, 32 Sharp-tailed Grouse, 19 Hairy Woodpeckers, 17 Downy Woodpeckers, 17 Rock Pigeons, five Ruffed Grouse, four Hoary Redpolls, 3 Pileated Woodpeckers, three Red-breasted Nuthatches, two Bald Eagles, two Dark-eyed Juncos, one Pine Siskin and one Ring-necked Pheasant. Two additional species (A Great Horned Owl and a Grey Partridge) were detected during the seven day count week period.
The 30 hardy volunteers who counted all these feathered friends included: Charlene Berkvens, Jen Bilsky, Pauline Bloom, Susan Cosens, Jim and Patsy Duncan, Charlie and Fay Dunlop, Chris Fearn, Heather Hinam, Pat Jeffery, Joan Knisley, Heather, Dan, Liam, Lily and Lucas McDermid, Carol and John Morgan, Andrew Robert, Jim and Johanna Rodger, Merlin Shoesmith, Stuart Slattery, Helen Slavuta, Joanne Smith, Kathy and Tim Stott, and Allan and Donna Webb.
For more on the Christmas Bird Count visit audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count.
If you happen to see any Great Gray Owls, Northern Hawk Owls or Barred Owls this winter please contact Jim and Patsy Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org as we catch, band and release these three owl species as part of a long-term owl research project.