The Gravenhurst-Bracebridge Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held on December 21 with 34 observers in 10 groups covering the 15 mile diameter circle centred between Gravenhurst and Bracebridge. The weather was clear and cold, a beautiful day to be out counted birds, but the birds were hard to find most being clustered around feeders and few flying elsewhere. The big lakes were ice-free but a cold snap froze the rivers the night before the count. Wild food (berries and cones)was scarce this year.

The total species counted was 34 and total individuals seen 2844. 6 more species were seen in count week (3 days before and after count day). The previous five year averages for species and individuals was 37 and 2608 so we had a below normal number of species but above normal number of individuals. This could be explained by the increase in number of groups counting this year and also by the congregation of European Starlings and Herring Gulls at the Bracebridge Landfill.

The five most common birds this year were: European Starling, Rock Dove, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Redpoll, and Herring Gull. Interesting finds this year were a White-throated Sparrow at a feeder in Gravenhurst, a Red-breasted Merganser on Lake Muskoka, a Great Black-backed Gull sitting on the iced-over river in downtown Bracebridge and another at the Gravenhurst Landfill, and a tail-less Hoary Redpoll(ssp exilipes) at a feeder east of Bracebridge.

It was nice to see a good number of Pine Grosbeaks(55) and Redpolls(259) but other finches were scarce. Evening Grosbeaks increased this year to 85 from only 2 last year but are still well below the numbers seen in recent years. The House Finch which recently invaded Muskoka appears to be declining with only 1 counted. The House Sparrow decline in Bracebridge which started when the Muskoka Trading Feed Mill closed is now complete, zero was found this year but Gravenhurst still had 23. The illusive in winter Northern Cardinals were missed on count day in both towns this year despite recent sightings. The most surprising change was in Downy Woodpecker numbers which were at an all time low of 4 down from the usual 15 to 30.

The team competition between Gravenhurst and Bracebridge ended in a tie with each seeing 27 species, although Gravenhurst was initially declared the winner by 1. During the final tally the Bracebridge team was admonished by Gravenhurst for doubting their Boreal Owl sighted sitting on a chimney and accused them of just being jealous. It turned out that the Bracebridge doubts were well founded when it was discovered the following day that the Boreal Owl was indeed solid plastic! The Gravenhurst team leader claimed it was an honest mistake. The intense competition continues.

Thanks to all counters and organisers for making it a great day.

Click here to see the complete species list and numbers