by Al Sinclair

The 22nd Gravenhurst-Bracebridge Christmas Bird Count was held on December 16 with 37 observers in 10 groups covering the 15-mile diameter circle centred between the towns. The weather was good for bird counting, partly cloudy and not too cold, a big change from last year’s rain and 25cm. snow cover. All numbers were above average including a new record for number of observers. The total number of species found was 41 and total individuals counted was 3603. The averages for the last 10 years are 36.7 species and 2949 individuals.

The availability of wild food and the weather are the main factors that affect the number of birds found in winter. This year the seed crop was poor but lack of snow and warm weather meant there was still lots of birds to count. New count highs were set for the following species: Canada Goose-150, Common Goldeneye-77, Common Merganser-41, Ring-billed Gull-56, Red-breasted Nuthatch-26, Purple Finch-70, Common Redpoll-308. All the lakes and rivers were still ice-free resulting in record numbers of ducks and Canada Geese. A few hawks and a Merlin were found as well as 2 Northern Shrikes near the end of Beaumont Drive. A juvenile Northern Goshawk was seen watching a feeder from the trees in a backyard in Bracebridge. Ring-billed Gulls were still lounging around the fast food restaurants in both towns, a good indication of the extended fall. One of the big challenges every year is finding the Cardinals that are always present in low numbers. A Bracebridge group had just stopped for lunch at a residence on Dill Street when a neighbour telephoned to see if it was bird count day and did we want to see the pair of Cardinals at her feeder. What a stroke of luck! After a short hike down the street, there they were. The 6 Cardinals seen this year tied the previous record high. The usual feeder birds, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, were found in average numbers except Red-breasted Nuthatch which set a new record high. Blue Jays were below average. It was nice to see an increase in Evening Grosbeaks after a steady decline in the past 5 years. Pine Grosbeaks were down from the north in good numbers this year. More than a hundred were counted mostly around crabapple trees in the towns. Common Redpolls were the most plentiful winter finch and set a new record.

Now for the "good stuff". A Black-backed Woodpecker was found in Bracebridge stripping bark off a fallen tree beside Wyldwood Crescent. A Hoary Redpoll was in a big flock of Common Redpolls near Barkway and in Gravenhurst counters were surprised to find 2 American Robins. And then there are the "good birds that got away". Bohemian Waxwings were around Glendale Rd in Bracebridge before the count but were absent on count day. A Great Blue Heron was seen Saturday at the south end of Gravenhurst, but by count day its pond was frozen and it had departed. So did the Buffleheads on Gravenhurst Bay. We couldn’t count a couple of White-winged Crossbills coming to a feeder just north of the circle near High Falls Rd.

The team competition between Gravenhurst and Bracebridge was close again. Gravenhurst won with 36 species, one more than Bracebridge’s 35. Gravenhurst has been coming on strong lately after several straight losses in the 90’s. Bracebridge will have to stop resting on its laurels and get serious again. As usual Bracebridge had almost twice as many birds as Gravenhurst but Gravenhurst countered that these were mostly Starlings and Pigeons. The potluck supper following the count was attended by about 40 counters and MFNers and was well organized by Heather Harris and her team of helpers. Thanks to everyone for making it a great day.



G1-Dinny Nimmo, Beth & Don Madole

G2-Eleanor Kee Wellman, Dan Burton

G3-Pauline & Jim Goodfellow, Cyril & Marion Fry

G4-Janice House, Moira Payne, Rosemarie Hinzmann, Naomi, Eric & Ron Stager

G5-Carol & Gil Hunter, Margaret Beard

species seen = 36, individuals counted = 1299


B6- Margaret & Peter McLaren, Heather Coupland, Dave Wright

B7-Stewart Boyd, Linda Boon, Mary & Ian Willmott

B8-Jon Grandfield, Bill Dickinson, Mary & Tom Smith

B9-Stephanie Lehman, Joan & Lou Spence, Al Sinclair

B10-Bob Burton, Kathy Dyer, George Moroz

species seen = 35, individuals counted = 2304

WEATHER: Partly cloudy, -6/+1 C (21/34F), SNOW COVER 3 cm (1.2"), WIND none

TOTAL PARTY HOURS: 67 hrs, 52 hrs. by car, 15 hrs. on foot

TOTAL PARTY KM: 726 km(454mi), 704 km(440mi) by car, 22 km(14mi) on foot