Saugeen Field Naturalists spot 44 species in Christmas Bird Count

·3 min read

GREY-BRUCE – The Saugeen Field Naturalists conducted their 44th annual Hanover-Walkerton Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 19, 2020.

According to the group’s newsletter, this activity has become one of the largest citizen science projects in the world. The 2020 count was a bit different from past years, due to the pandemic. It didn’t end with a dinner the day after the field outing, but instead with one via Zoom. Care was taken to ensure distancing for everyone’s safety.

Gerard McNaughton said the Walkerton-Hanover area count identified 44 species this year including one new species, an osprey.

“The actual number of field participants was down as several long-time counters bowed out of this year’s count but once

things return to normal I’m sure they will be back,” said McNaughton.

He said the weather was a bit blustery, starting out with cloudy skies in the morning and little wind, and shifting to snow showers and limited visibility at times by mid-day, making finding birds harder as the day went on.

Most groups said the birds were hunkered down and that most feeders were empty for the first time in years, making for a difficult day.

McNaughton said, “As always, several quality birds were observed including a first-ever osprey found by Joy Albright just outside Walkerton. Presumably, the same bird was seen just before count week started but not since, so that was a

great find for count day. Several winter finches also put in appearances to help bolster overall numbers.”

The overall summary is as follows:

Mute swan - 7

Canada goose – 1,339

Mallard - 383

Common goldeneye - 19

Common merganser - 50

Sharp-shinned hawk - 3

Cooper’s hawk - 2

Red tailed hawk - 12

Rough legged hawk - 9

Bald eagle - 11

Osprey - 1

Ruffed grouse - 2

Wild turkey - 132

Ring-billed gull - 428

Herring gull - 121

Great black-backed gull - 2

Rock dove - 439

Mourning dove - 105

Eastern screech owl - 7

Belted kingfisher - 2

Red-bellied woodpecker - 6

Downy woodpecker - 34

Hairy woodpecker - 13

Pileated woodpecker - 3

Northern shrike - 4

Blue jay - 100

American crow – 1,083

Common raven - 3

Black-capped chickadee - 344

Red-breasted nuthatch - 27

White-breasted nuthatch - 32

Brown creeper - 10

European starling – 1,117

American tree sparrow - 51

Dark-eyed junco - 348

Snow bunting - 300

Northern cardinal - 39

Purple finch - 2

House finch - 108

Common redpoll - 164

Pine siskin - 71

American goldfinch - 334

Evening grosbeak - 1

House sparrow - 136

Total was 44 species, 7,405 individuals.

Accipiter Sp. - 1

Hawk Sp. - 1

Gull Sp. - 83

Woodpecker Sp. - 1

Two additional species were recorded during the count week period. The hooded merganser and pine grosbeak were both seen in the three days leading up to the count; nothing was reported in the three days after count day.

“The next count will take place on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 so mark your calendars now,” said McNaughton. “Let’s hope that everything is back to normal by then and that we’re able to get together to swap stories from the field. Until

then, the best of health and happiness to everyone and good birding.”

The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago.

Winter hike

All indoor activities of the Saugeen Field Naturalists have been cancelled because of COVID-19, but outdoor activities continue. The next one is Jan. 16 – the Winter Nature Hike. The location will be the Murray Tract, the less-well-know part of the Kinghurst Nature Reserve, at 1:30 p.m. Participants must register (email

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times