Category Archives: bird


Our Christmas Bird Count —  initial results

On Saturday December 30th, we completed our annual Christmas Bird Count.

The Numbers:

  • 23 + 7 participants; 715 km driven; 10.5 km walked; 2.5 hrs owling; -14ºC minimum;
  • 38 species overall; estimated 3983 individual birds overall;
  • most populous: American Crow 931, Snow Bunting 740, European Starling 342, Dark-eyed Junco 335, American Goldfinch 300, Black-Capped Chickadee 272, Wild Turkey 223,
  • least seen: Ruffed Grouse 1, Northern Harrier 1, Sharp-shinned Hawk 1, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Snowy Owl 1, Belted Kingfisher 1, Northern Shrike 1,
  • Christmas Bird Count participants: (23 participants):
    (Area 1): Ron Jasiuk, Bill, Mike, Russ, Cynthia, Leo;
    (Area 2): Mark Whitcombe, Jerry, Paul, Katherine;
    (Area 3): Linda Lockyer, Mike, Dilys, Debby;
    (Area 4): Ron Ritchie, Mary Lynn, Betty;
    (Area 5): Dawn Renfrew, Darcie;
    (Area 6): Rob Best, Kevin, Anne-Marie, Suzanne
  • Christmas Feeder Watch participants: (7 participants):
    Doug & Jane, Jean, Joan, Robin, Rachel, Liz

Northern Shrike (by Kevin Tipson)

Comments (by a botanist …)

Of note, the cold weather we’ve been having through much of December meant there was very little open unfrozen water, so the geese and other waterfowl including gulls that cluster around water were mostly absent. Northern visitors (i.e., Dark-eyed Juncos, Snow Buntings and Pine Siskins) were present, but few of the more sporadic irruptives were seen. The most notable of these were the one Northen Shrike, and the one Snowy Owl reported by a non-member south of Orangeville along Highway 10. Crossbills, etc., were not reported. (I suspect the excellent seed and cone production during last summer’s well-watered growing season have kept those birds farther north.)

Approximately three-quarters of the total number of individual birds came from 7 out of the 38 species, mostly from those species that congregate in large flocks in winter often taking advantage of agricultural leftovers, i.e., American Crows, European Starlings, Wild Turkeys.  On the other end, 7 species were represented by only 1 individual bird.

In Area 2, south-east from Caledon, we certainly noticed that over a third of birdfeeders maintained and filled in previous years were inactive. That certainly reduced the number and the diversity of species we saw both in residential areas, and along the rural roads near houses.

Dark-eyed Junco (by Paul Blayney)

Comments from Russ (a birder!)

  • Up Trend:  Highest number of Red-bellied Woodpeckers (20) versus 12 last year which was then the highest count. Red-bellied Woodpeckers were first seen in 2006 (1 bird) and then not seen again until 2010 (2 birds).
  • Down Trend:  House Sparrows at 16. Average the last five years is 30. Average for the first five counts (1987-91) was 441.
  • Not a trend, but, rather surprisingly, we saw record numbers of Juncos, Snow Buntings and Grackles (2).
  • On the Snow Buntings, a large flock was seen in both Areas 4 and 6, which adjoin on Hwy 9. I wonder if it was the same flock (estimated at 340 and 400 birds).

Snow Buntings (by Kevin Tipson)

The Pattern

All of this fits with the pattern reported to Ontario Birds by Josh Vandermuelen, one of the aggregators on that site:
“The unrelenting cold weather that has descended upon even the most southerly reaches of the province has limited the number of lingering bird species being discovered, and as a result the Ontario winter bird list is lower than it has been by this date in previous winters.
“Since my last update on December 14, eight new species have been added to the list, bringing it up to 192. In comparison, last year by this date the winter bird list was 207 species, finishing at 216 species. The new additions since my last update are: Vesper Sparrow (Ottawa, London, Sandbanks), Brewer’s Blackbird (Long Point), Tufted Duck (Mississauga to Toronto), Eastern Meadowlark (multiple locations), Indigo Bunting (Seeley’s Bay), Lincoln’s Sparrow (Toronto), Ovenbird (Toronto) and Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Brantford).
“There are very few remaining expected species. Some of the more likely species to be added to the list over the next two months include Boreal Owl, Fish Crow and Pine Warbler. Other species missing from this winter’s list that are more unusual but still observed most winters include Eared Grebe, Black-headed Gull, California Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Harris’s Sparrow, Spotted Towhee and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch.”
(ONTBIRDS is presented by the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) – the provincial birding organization. For information visit


Red-bellied Woodpecker (by Kevin Tipson)


All in all, an excellent experience again this year! Important data was gathered and submitted to the Audubon Society. Citizen Science is important! We had good times together. We welcomed new and accomplished members, and welcomed back some great friends whom we’ve not seen much of. I’m sorry to have missed the wonderful potluck and post-count gathering hosted by Kevin and Carol.

Thanks to Ron Jasiuk and Russ Macgillivray for organizing this important UCFNC annual event! (If you wish more complete information, please Contact us!

Christmas Bird Count 2017: Get your binos and warm clothes ready!

UCFNC Christmas Bird Count areas

Across North America naturalists have been participating in Christmas Bird Counts for well over 100 years. One of the first participants was a Toronto birder!

The first UCFN Christmas Bird Count was conducted on 12 Dec 1987. So this is the 30th anniversary. The data gathered by volunteers is used to track changes in populations and ranges of bird species. It’s also a great opportunity to enjoy and become familiar with winter birds. Our bird count area includes Alton, Erin, Inglewood, Orangeville, Mono Mills, and the surrounding areas. The bird count area is divided into six sub-areas each of which is covered by a team.

As well, we welcome the data from others who contribute Feeder Watch data. This event is not only about identifying and counting birds. It’s about sharing our enthusiasms together, both during the actual counting as we drive and walk through our assigned zones, and then afterwards as we gather for an informal potluck dinner and sharing session. Drivers, photographers, recorders, and general naturalists are needed — as well as good birders! (I’m personally fortunate to be linked up with a good birder and a good photographer!) We start in the early morning, and count until a lunch break, getting in and out of cars to more carefully scan significant areas. Some sort of lunch break is arranged within each group. Then, later in the afternoon, we gather to have our potluck sharing session. (For those who want, you are welcome to spend some time Friday evening listening for owls as well!)

Last year, because of our cold weeks earlier in December there was no open water other than in streams and creeks so that waterfowl were all but absent in late 2016. However, this Christmas Bird Could is not about bigger or better numbers — it’s about getting as detailed an inventory each year to build into larger patterns. Let’s see how the numbers from this year turn out!

There are two ways to participate:
1. Area Search
Participants work as a group with an experienced leader. Most searching for birds is conducted by scanning skies, fields and yards by driving along backroads and residential roads. In some areas short sections are covered by foot.
2. Feeder Watch
Participants spend the count day monitoring their feeders, listing species and the greatest number they see at any one time. If your property is outside the count circle your information cannot be included in what we send to Bird Studies Canada, but the club will be interested in what you saw and your sightings will be included in the next club newsletter. Contact us for the form we’re suggesting for gathering data.

Post Count Pot Luck Get Together
Traditionally, count day ends with a pot luck supper for all members regardless whether they were counting or not. It’s a great time to socialize with fellow club members and to share stories about the days’ sightings and adventures. This year we will be gathering December 30th starting between 4:30 and 5:00 P.M. For details, contact us.

If you are interested in participating in the 2016 UCFN CBC do one of the following.
1. Look at the attached CBC area map, identify the area you would like to help with or the
area where your bird feeders are located and via email contact the leader of that particular area to let them know how you would like to help.

Area 1: Ron Jasiuk
Area 2: Mark Whitcombe
Area 3: Linda Lockyear
Area 4: Ron Ritchie
Area 5: Dawn Renfrew
Area 6: Rob Best

2. If you don’t have a preference where you would like to be birding, contact us.

Contact us!

Christmas Bird Count done!

Thanks to the more than 20 people who turned out to do our annual Christmas Bird Count on Friday December 30th!  Special thanks to Ron Jasiuk and Russ McGillivary for their organization and to Kevin and Carol for hosting the fine potluck dinner afterwards!

UCFNC Christmas Bird Count areas

Russ will compile the results from our six different teams and from the others who contributed Feeder Watch data. We’ve not got a preliminary guess as to how many species nor how many individual birds we say. What we can say is that because of our cold weeks earlier in December there was no open water other than in streams and creeks so that our large numbers of waterfowl from last year were all but absent this year. It’s not about bigger or better numbers — it’s about getting as detailed an inventory each year to build into larger patterns. Let’s see how this the numbers from this year turn out!

I had the great fortune to be out in Area 2, southeast of Caledon over to Caledon East with wonderful birders. Hart brought along Gordon, a friend of his from the Nature London Club and an experienced birder. I’m always in awe of folks with good ears — and Gordon certainly had them. The others would hear things that I couldn’t even with my top-quality hearing aids turned up fully.

Can you see the Red-tail Hawk sitting in the tree down the field — and can you spot the Rough-leg flying away up and to its right?

Highlights for me:  spotting a Belted Kingfisher (and hearing another) at the spot that Chris P had seen them at for many years down at the bottom of the Escarpment along a branch of the Credit River — and seeing a cold-looking Great Blue Heron at the same spot!; being shown a Rough-legged Hawk sharing a tree and sitting directly above a Red-tailed Hawk along the Grange Sideroad east of Highway 10; (the Rough-leg took off leaving the Red-tail sitting in the tree; look closely and you’ll spot the Red-tail in the tree near the middle of the photo, and possibly see the Rough-leg flying away just above and to the right in this mobile phone photo); learning that Gordon had worked with an amazing birder with whom I spent a marvellous summer way back in 1972 working on an ecological inventory of Prince Edward County; getting together with almost everyone afterwards and sharing sightings and stories; wandering up and down the side roads and concessions of Caledon, looking at the wonderful diversity of habitats — and yet realizing how remarkably young almost every top of forest actually was.

A pothole beside the road — with the Phragmites looking lovely in a sinister sort of manner …


(Posted by Mark Whitcombe)

A bedraggled House Finch huddled against my back deck door in a snowstorm (… seems to have survived well enough to eventually fly away — but will it actually survive …)

Credit Valley BioBlitz Registration is now open!

Guided Blitz Registration is now open!

Join us for the 2016 Ontario BioBlitz in the Credit River Watershed on June 11-12!

The Guided BioBlitz is an opportunity for less-experienced nature enthusiasts to learn a bit more about their favourite species through field surveying and identification techniques – important skills for understanding the world around us. Our 2015 flagship event in the Don Watershed was a big success. Thanks to the 700+ registered participants and volunteers – we couldn’t do it without you!

The Guided BioBlitz is open to all ages and all experience levels, but be aware that sessions can require a lot of walking. Please also note that there can be a 40 minute drive between Guided BioBlitz sites.

Visit to register for sessions, look at the map of the Guided Blitz sites, and download a copy of the schedule.

Most sessions are limited to 30 people per group, and will fill up quickly – so make sure to register early! Participants will be contacted with more information about their particular session shortly after registration closes, on May 20th, 2016.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, we would be happy to answer them – just send us an e-mail at, or for more info.

The Letter “P X 3”

The Letter “P X 3” – Can you name the “P” creatures?

The first “P” has chewed the bark off of at least 57 Red Pine tress in a small area of the Alton Grange. Interesting that numerous Hemlock and scattered deciduous saplings were untouched except for one sapling.

The second “P” was calling throughout the Hockley Valley Nature Preserve. This very large excavation was found this past Monday before the snow arrived.

The third “P” at least 36 of them took over our bird feeders once the temperatures dropped accompanied by the falling snow.


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Annual Christmas Bird Count 2015-6


SATURDAY JANUARY 2ND – SAVE THE DATE FOR OUR ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT More information coming soon about how you can participate in our local count. In the meantime find out more about this 100+ year old citizen science event that occurs all over North America, drug in many European countries and involves thousands of volunteers just like you.

cardinal & chickadee

(Ron Jasiuk)

The reason for FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program)

We installed new windows at home over the summer. Several times we’ve heard ‘thunks’ as birds hit the large shiny new window in our now-bright living room.

Then this …

The impact of a Mourning Dove on our new window …

The impact of a Mourning Dove on our new window …  (photo by Mark Whitcombe)

Look carefully at the photo. One wing extends right to the top and the other to the left edge; both legs show; individual feathers show; the breastbone clearly shows; individual feathers show …

The dove survived initially, weakly flying away after a few minutes. The next day at our feeder there was a dove with feathers missing from its head. But after that, there have only been two Mourning Doves in our yard, down from the three that we’ve had for the last while.

What is our living room with wonderful windows is not a living room for birds …

We’ve now put up stickers and hung window ornaments — with success so far.

Our next speaker from FLAP will be alerting us to ways that individually and as a society we can reduce the toll of birds hitting windows and buildings. FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) estimates the number of migrating birds killed annually in collisions with buildings ranges from 100 million to 1 billion birds. Oh my …

(by Mark Whitcombe)




A Great Egret song

Great Egrets

Great Egrets on Island Lake, August 15, 2015     (photo by Mark Whitcombe)

On an increasingly warm morning, Linda and Chris led us on an exploration of the impressive new trail & boardwalk that completes the circle around Orangeville’s Island Lake. The finished trail is a wonderful tribute to the volunteers of the Credit Valley Conservation Foundation! The many walkers, joggers, families (… and perhaps too many fast bike riders…) speak to the value of this addition to the community.

We saw lots of Canada Geese and Mallards, many Cedar Waxwings, several Kingfishers, some Kingbirds, two Great Blue Herons, a still-enthusiastic Red-eyed Vireo, as well as a Caspian Tern. There were Painted Turtles galore in some spots, sunning on stumps, basking in the shallows, and ploughing lanes through the water plants. I saw at least three species of dragonfly that I couldn’t identify over the open water. I only saw 3 butterflies, all Cabbage Whites. The hit of the trip for me was seeing three Great Egrets, so graceful in their pure whites and their gently swooping flight.

Chris and Linda said this was their ‘swan song’ after 3 years as our field trip organizers. I prefer to link to the graceful egrets, species that Linda in particular has a solid history of working with. I thanked Chris and Linda for their wonderful efforts in providing the club with so many regular and diverse opportunities. We owe them our deepest respect and thanks!

This highlights the need of our club to arrange and offer field trips for the coming year. As I think about fulfilling this, I wonder how we could do this differently.

There are several different components — which could/should involve different people. There is the publicity aspect, involving the writing of emails and sending them out after clarifying details. There is the actual leading of the trips, something that should be separate from the other aspects of field trips. It is not our expectation that those who organize field trips actually lead them (though they are welcome to). There is the component of deciding which field trips to offer and who might actually lead particular excursions. For all  these aspects, there’s a wealth of knowledge and expertise and help within the club.

How can we accomplish this organization and delivery of field trips differently than relying on one or two stalwarts to give so much of their time and effort? Please use the Comments form to share feedback. (I read and approve everything before publishing comments, so if you wish to make your comments private, please indicate this.)

(By the way, Linda has officially reached 163 species for her Big Dufferin Year, her concerted work to find as many species of bird in one year in Dufferin County. Congratulations!)

Once again, thanks to Chris and Linda for giving us so much these last few years!

Now how many of us will step up to offer to move us forward?

Are our Chimney Swifts already gone?

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On Wednesday, sale August 12th, I couldn’t see or hear any Chimney Swifts above downtown Shelburne during about 15 minutes of noon-time observation near the church where I had previously seen them diving into a roosting chimney during the daytime.  On Thursday and again today, August 14th, I couldn’t see or hear any Chimney Swifts above downtown Orangeville after 30 minutes of observation around the two chimneys (Broadway, and Mill Street) I’d previously seen them using during daylight hours.

It seems quite possible that they have they left already on their migration. That’s within the standard timeframe of mid-August onwards.

We first saw them on June 2nd, and our interpretation was that they had only recently arrived. On July 29th, I and others twice observed birds diving into and leaving the Broadway chimney, spending less than a minute inside the chimney each time. That’s typical behaviour for feeding pre-fledglings.  If so, then from recent fledgling to migrating bird takes place in about 2 weeks.  Impressive!

The last Chimney Swifts I have seen this year were 4 flying above downtown Orangeville on August 4th.

We do not know the breeding success of the three roosts being used in our area.  It would take considerable attentive field work to determine that!

I’m amazed that about 10+ weeks is all the time they spend on their breeding grounds. Their breeding success is now so constrained simply by a lack of suitable chimneys in which to nest. That’s why it’s so important to identify and protect suitable chimney, as well as to better census Chimney Swift populations.

Citizen science is worthwhile!

Chimney Swift leaving chimney roost

Chimney Swift leaving chimney roost on Broadway in Orangeville