Bird-watchers participating in Sunday’s Christmas Bird Count saw something they had never before seen on the day of the count — a yellow-bellied sapsucker.
About 60 volunteers participated in the 2017 count, which organizer Mike Cadman said is about the usual number.
“We try to standardize so the results are comparable from one year to the next,” said Cadman.
The Guelph count is one of about 1,700 Christmas Bird Counts conducted across Canada each year.
The city was divided into 13 zones and volunteers worked in groups to cover the city.
“It’s a very enjoyable day in the field for people who are interested in birds and the outdoors and it contributes an understanding of continental trends for birds in the winter time, which is helpful in assessing the status — which species we should be concentrating conservation efforts on and drawing alarming declines to peoples’ attention so things can get done about it,” said Cadman.
Volunteers found 197 American tree sparrows — down sharply from the 10-year average of 274.
A total of 12,646 birds were recorded Sunday, representing 63 species of birds, which is close to the recent average of 64.
Frozen standing water may have affected the number of species recorded.
“Had we done the count a week earlier, we would have had quite a few more species but with the cold snap hitting like it did, freezing up a lot of the water that means a lot of the water fowl moves out, there was a lot fewer ducks and things than there would have been,” he said.
A pleasant surprise in the record nine bald eagles recorded, up from the previous record of seven.
Cadman said the rise in top predators like bald eagles is a good sign and may be attributed to a reintroduction program conducted infers past.
“That seems to have worked very well,” he said.
A record 39 ravens were recorded, up from the previous record of 17 — though it is noted some double counting likely occurred.
The yellow-bellied sapsucker had been counted in same week as a previous local bird count, but never on the count day.
Also, a Townsend’s solitaire seen earlier in the week was not seen on count day.
Bird Studies Canada says the data collected helps to assess the population trends and distribution of birds.
The data is used daily by conservation biologists and naturalists, says Bird Studies Canada.
A number of birds, including the turkey vulture, red-shouldered hawk, chipping sparrow and peregrine falcon, tied previous records by having only one of their species counted.
“Things like turkey vultures staying around in the winter is a little unusual, but it’s happening more and more as the climate changes,” said Cadman.