Christmas Bird Count

The first Christmas Bird Count was held on Christmas Day in 1900 in New York City. Now, about 60,000 people participate annually in over 2000 different Christmas Bird Counts held throughout North and South America. The data collected are used to analyze changes in bird numbers. For example, Audubon’s 2009 report explores the impact of climate change on bird populations across the continent. The Woodstock Christmas Bird Count has been held in mid-December every year since 1934. You can download an excel summary of our results below.

The 87th annual Woodstock Christmas Bird Count was held on December 26th, 2020. Despite covid, we managed to assemble 22 field observers and 15 feeder watchers who together reported 66,412 birds of 62 species. Totals are mostly average (including the species count). Only two high counts were recorded: Northern Cardinal (239, previous high count 151) and Red-bellied Woodpecker (38, previous high 35). These species seem to be doing well with our milder winters. The weather on count day was decent but moderate winds made hearing tricky at times. Common Raven was our rarest find, only the second for the count but likely to be seen regularly in the future as they are now breeding at a few locations in the county. The raven was found by John Harvey and Anita Goodman near a known nest site on Firehall Road. Ravens were likely common breeders in the county before colonization but were pushed back to northern frontiers as part of the war on wolves (poisoned baits killed ravens and many other animals, not just wolves). It is great to see them recovering parts of their former range.

 

Birds recorded on 12 or fewer counts included: Turkey Vulture (5 counts - found by Steve McDougall), Sandhill Crane (8 counts - seen by Ken and Janet Dance and Angela and Jeff Skevington), Hermit Thrush (11 counts - found by Alexander and Sharron Skevington), Chipping Sparrow (4 counts - found by Betty McIlwrick), White-crowned Sparrow (9 counts - found by Angela and Jeff Skevington) and Red Crossbill (10 counts - found by Angela and Jeff Skevington). 

The photo of the Northern Cardinal below was taken by Alexander Skevington. Northern Cardinal numbers are up all across Ontario this year, with record numbers of birds on many counts and birds far beyond their normal range in northern Ontario. Our cardinal count of 239 eclipsed our previous high count by 88. A 58% increase over the previous high is staggering when you consider how many years we have been doing this count. What is up with cardinals?

Northern Cardinal Alexander Skevington.j

The 2021 Christmas Bird Count date will be set later in the year. Contact Jeff Skevington for details (jhskevington@gmail.com; 613-720-2862).

The data for the Woodstock Christmas Bird Counts from 1934-2020 are available below in excel format. Just click to download.

Photos below are from previous counts. Clockwise from top: Sandhills Cranes and Canada Geese, Barred Owl, Harris's Sparrow and Western Meadowlark.

Below is a map of our count area along with the different count sectors