2022 Moncton circle Christmas Bird Count

On the morning of December 17 last, 28 counters headed out to confront what would be, if you trusted the forecast, a pretty bad weather day for our Christmas Bird Count. In fact there had been chatter in the days before questioning if the count could even go ahead because of pretty unsettled weather for that weekend. But the decision was made to go ahead and results show that it was a good one. First of all the weather was not all that bad particularly in the morning and that made it possible to be outside comfortably and be moving around for people and birds. And this  resulted in turn in an above average count, numbers wise. But before we get to that, I would like to thank all of you 28 field observers and 24 feeder watchers for helping us make Moncton’s 62nd Christmas Bird Count a success. A very special “thanks” also to Susan Atkinson for taking on again the work on the feeder side and also for preparing a great hot chicken soup for the tally up. And on this point two more very special notes. First it was our first live tally-up in 3 years (pandemic) and so a great cause for rejoicing to be able finally to all get together after our count. Secondly and on an even happier note David Christie, who was one of the founders of Nature Moncton and had been doing the count for a very long part of those 62 previous years, was able to join us for a bit of the count and the tally up. David who is now 82 has had mental challenges that have resulted in him moving to a nursing home and of course during the pandemic it was out of the question to get him to join us. But with the help of several good people (a very special thanks to Pat Latimer and Chris Majka) David made it and we sure were happy to have him with us for the tally-up.

Ok so on to results. The full list follows  below but let’s start with highlights. With 54 species on count day and 3 more for count week totaling 12,136 individual birds we were on the high end of our “normal” average of 52 for the last 10 years  (I will be using this gage from here on end since more than that you are looking at a lot more variables). And weather wise, although it did get messy later in the day, it was not bad at all for the first part with temps hovering around +2C with winds from the Northwest at an acceptable 30ks and some very light precipitations. The ground and ice were mostly frozen and there was a bit of snow on the ground but most streams were flowing.

If we now look at the species list the first thing that jumps out at me is the number of Mallards. At 561 they were at the second lowest in a decade. Common knowledge would tell you that there are about a thousand individuals around the city at any time of the year. So is this just the result of a glitch in finding / reporting them or are there really less of them around? Hard to say since last year they were at a high of 1798 and the year before at a very low 541. That is quite a difference. But maybe there are also environmental factors at play. In any case something to keep an eye on. The next species to ring a bell would be the two other dabbler ducks (which are normally few and far between in the Moncton circle). Surprisingly we had our fifth showing for both Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal in 63 years. The fact that most running water was unfrozen must have helped with that. Moving on to gulls there were several interesting high counts with those. In fact all species were at a 10 year high except Great Black-backed Gulls. But there is always lots of variability with gulls. Still all other gull species were high with Lesser Black-back Gulls at 9 individuals being at an all time high.

For raptors a result that I noted was the fact that we did get Cooper’s but not Sharp-shinned Hawk on count day. Now we did get a couple of sharpies on count week (fiouf!) but still it was not that long ago that a Cooper’s Hawk was a very good species for our count and now they seem to be much more common. In fact before 2008 we had only had one confirmed Cooper’s on the Moncton CBC while since then we have had them 7 times. In any case just one more example of how having the data from a CBC helps you get a feel of what is happening with bird populations. Next, on the Bald Eagle front, we were relatively low at 49 (10-year average 71) but again that could have to do with the fairly nice weather in the weeks before that resulted in less concentration at feeding spots like the dump. If we keep going it’s always nice to have more than one species of owls reported on the count and managing to get both Short-eared and Great-horned this year was a treat. That last one was seen / heard on count week and came from a feeder-watcher, which goes to prove once more the importance of this aspect of the count. If we move on to woodpeckers here again we did very well with an unprecedented 6 species in that group. Of these 3 Red-bellied Woodpeckers (all from feeders) was an all time high and managing to get Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on the count for the very first time was great. Moving on to corvids, well, at 829 American Crow looked low (second lowest in 10 years) but maybe we just did not discover their main roosts this year. On the other hand Ravens were at the second highest of the last decade. Good for them.

As for the Chickadee to Creeper group well everything is kind of  “normal” except that White-breasted Nuthatch continue on a now 3-year run when they have been reported in higher numbers than ever before. Also Brown Creeper at 9 hit their highest number ever. Robins were low at 5 but that was to be expected in a year when little fruits are few and far between. As for sparrows all species were pretty well inside the expected variability factor except Juncos that at 113 were present at very high levels. But if you look at the full data set for now 63 years they seem to reach their high point on the Moncton CBC about every 10 years. Interesting. Next well with two species of warblers it was a very good year for that group with both Pine and Orange-crowned making the list. Finally certainly one of the staring groups of the show this year were Northern Cardinals who at lucky 13 (several off them at feeders) came in at only the second highest next to the exceptional 19 in 2020. But I would not count on that record standing very long.

Now in the missing in action segment which would be the species that are around but for which you need a bit of luck here are the ones that I was wishing for but that did not show; Common Mergansers, Ruffed Grouse, Canada Jay and all finches which are generally very low this year (due I would expect to a dismal cone crop). Maybe next year.

So there you have it. One more year one more set of data and lots of fun. See you all again next year.

Species for Moncton CBC  (17 / 12 / 2022)

On count day

Canada Goose                              145

Mallard                                            561

American Black Duck                       43

Northern Pintail                                 1

Green-winged Teal                            1

Ring-necked Pheasant                      33

Rock Pigeon                                      780

Mourning Dove                                  220

Ring-billed Gull                                  15

Herring Gull                                        2661

Iceland Gull                                        545

Lesser Black-backed Gull                  8

Glaucous Gull                                    6

Great Black-backed Gull                    605

Northern Harrier                                 1

Cooper’s Hawk                                   1

Bald Eagle                                          49     

Red-tailed Hawk                                 2

Rough-legged Hawk                           1

Short-eared Owl                                  1

Red-bellied Woodpecker                     3

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker                     1

Downy Woodpecker                             34

Hairy Woodpecker                                19

Pileated Woodpecker                            6     

Northern Flicker                                    1

Peregrine Falcon                                   2

Blue Jay                                                 231    

American Crow                                      829

Common Raven                                     82

Black-capped Chickadee                       613

Golden-crowned Kinglet                         33    

Red-breasted Nuthatch                          64

White-breasted Nuthatch                       18

Brown Creeper                                       9     

European Starling                                   2826

American Robin                                      5

Bohemian Waxwing                                400

Cedar Waxwing                                      3

House Sparrow                                       20

Evening Grosbeak                                  278

House Finch                                            15

Pine Siskin                                              2

American Goldfinch                                 544

Snow Bunting                                          250

Chipping Sparrow                                    2

American Tree Sparrow                           22

Dark-eyed Junco                                     113

White-throated Sparrow                           9

Song Sparrow                                          2

Swamp Sparrow                                      4

Orange-crowned Warbler                        1

Pine Warbler                                            1

Northern Cardinal                                     13

                                    Total count day --  54

Count week

Great Horned O                1

Sharp-shinned Hawk        2

Merlin                                1

          Total count day + count week --  57


The Nature Moncton Annual Christmas Bird Count