Opinion Column

BIRDWATCH: The results from the Pembroke and Area Field Naturalists' 24th Official Christmas Bird Count are in

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer

The three most common bird species encountered on the Pembroke and Area Field Naturalists' official Christmas Bird Count held on Dec. 17 were the American Crow, left, the Black-Capped Chickadee, centre, and the European Starling.

The three most common bird species encountered on the Pembroke and Area Field Naturalists' official Christmas Bird Count held on Dec. 17 were the American Crow, left, the Black-Capped Chickadee, centre, and the European Starling.


The Pembroke Area Field Naturalists’ 24th official Christmas Bird Count was held on Dec. 17. Unlike last year’s warmer weather and slight snow, this year’s count was marred by low temperatures and heavy snow, affecting visibility. In addition, the Ottawa River was open only in certain patches, and several of the northern migrants had not returned in time for the count.


Twenty six persons counted birds in the field and 20 participants watched their feeders. For their efforts, the participants recorded 38 bird species and located a total of 4,490 individual birds during the count. Both of these numbers were significantly down from last year. Since 1978 when the first Pembroke Christmas Count occurred, the number of bird species added to the count over the years has grown to 109 bird species.

This year, due to the fact that the Ottawa River was basically frozen over, only three waterfowl species were found: Canada Geese, Mallards and Common Goldeneye.

The highlight of the count was the high number of Raptor species located on the count. This included two Northern Goshawks, two Merlin, two Rough-legged Hawks, three Bald Eagles, and four Barred Owls. This year, no rare species was found on the count.

Interestingly, despite the cold fall and winter conditions this year, three over-wintering bird species were spotted. These included three Robins, one White-throated Sparrow, and five Song Sparrows.

The three most common bird sightings were American Crows (1 050), Black-capped Chickadees (541) and European Starlings (408). Last year, the three most common bird sightings were Canada Geese (1 485), Rock Doves (471) and Black-capped Chickadees (444).

An initial analysis of the results revealed that the number of bird species was down, mainly due to the frozen river conditions that reduced the number of waterfowl species. The second factor was the heavy snow that affected visibility and made the finding of several of our regular birds quite difficult.

Also, while there was a good overall number of northern migrant species, there were a few still missing. There was a good number of Evening Grosbeaks, American Tree Sparrows, and Snow Buntings, and a decent number of Dark-eyed Juncos and Purple Finches. Unfortunately, there were only four Common Redpoll found and no Pine Siskins, Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks, or Northern Shrike. It was also disappointing that both the Snowy and Great Grey Owls were absent.

This year, the field observers were Vincent Agneski, Leo Boland, Jean Brereton, Bob Cermak, Robin Cunningham and Liz Link, Bruce Dilaio, Mark Dojczman, Susan Ellis, Merv Fediuk, Manson Fleguel, Teresa Frechette, Ole Henderickson, Ken and Pat Hooles, Margaret McLeod, Jennifer Montgomery, Phil Montgomery, Rowan and Willem Nadon, Andre and Christian Renault, Benita Richardson, Ashley Smith, Maurice Thibeau and Fraser Young.

The feeder watchers included: Jim Anderson, Nancy Armstrong, Ray Brazeau, Jim and Ann Clarke, Keith Curry, Dwight and Lucy Dickerson, Merv Doughtery, Glenda Duff, Merv Fediuk, Dennis Gorr, Mary-Lou Hanson, Vic Harmer, Ted and Nancy Hiscock, Pat Hooles, Lynn Jones, Carolyn Lance, Erick and Margaret leskie, Debra Lloyd, Myron Loback, Francis Marcotte, Joan McQuire, Wendall McLaughlin, Allan Mills, Maureen and Helen Morris, Sandra Muir, Jill Renault, Jack and Cecile Schraeder, Diane Thrasher, Aret and Shirley van Winckle and Myrna Yaniszeweski.

The Pembroke Area Field Naturalists would like to extend their thanks to everyone who participated in the field this year or watched their feeders. Special thanks to Christian Renault for co-ordinating this year’s event.

Elsewhere on the local scene, the cold and snowy weather is drawing more birds to the feeders, including some of the northern migrants like American Tree Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Evening Grosbeaks, and large flocks of American Goldfinches. With the increase in birds at the feeders, there has also been a slight increase in the number of hawks, including Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks.

The Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks. Pine Siskin and Common Redpoll are almost non-existent so far this winter. However, we have finally had a sighting of a Snowy Owl in the Cobden area.

On Jan. 4, Jeanette Mitchell in the west end of Pembroke updated me with some of the birds at her feeder. These include 14 Mourning Doves, numerous American Goldfinches, and a juvenile Pileated Woodpecker.

Finally, on Jan . 7, Leslie Stuber of Boundary Road observed a large flock of Crows flying over his home on Boundary Road. There are at least four large flocks of these Crows in our area.

Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430, or email me at hooles@bell.net . For more information on upcoming nature events or other links to nature, just Google the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists or like us on Facebook.  

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