Observers spot many species during Christmas bird counts

Published on January 6, 2017

The numbers of evening grosbeaks spotted during local Christmas bird counts has decreased. At one time large flocks could be seen but only 14 grosbeaks were noted during the 2016 Truro count.

©Submitted photo

TRURO, N.S. – If you spend all day outside watching birds you may get some surprises.

Participants in local Christmas bird counts spotted a robin, purple finch, northern mockingbird and some others rarely seen this time of year.

A count took place in Lower Truro on Dec. 29 and 16,665 birds, of 47 species, were seen.

“We’ve been doing this since 1990 and we see some trends,” said count organizer Ross Hall, a retired wildlife biologist. “Mourning doves and cardinals are more plentiful but there are fewer evening grosbeaks. We used to see big flocks of evening grosbeaks; it’s kind of a treat to see one now.”

He doesn’t know why their numbers have declined. Some types of finches weren’t seen this year but he said they move around a lot and are found in different areas from year to year.

There were 12 field observers and 11 people watching feeders during the event, but feeders don’t draw as many birds when the ground isn’t snow covered.

The Tatamagouche count has been scheduled for Jan. 4, but when a freezing rain warning was forecast watchers decided to hold it a day earlier.

“It was a nice day and we always see something unusual,” said John Rubin. “There was a goshawk and a purple sandpiper this year, and my wife (Trish) saw three grey jays. They’re not common here; they’re a boreal forest bird.”

John and Trish had taken part in bird counts in the Annapolis Valley, and started the Tatamagouche one four years ago. They had 12 field observers, along with a few feeder watchers, this year.

Rubin’s interest in birds grew when he was working as a forest technician. He would flag trees to be cut but when people returned the marking tape would be missing; the birds were taking it to use as nesting material.

“I started to really think about what they were doing and in the late 70s started birding,” he said. “My wife started coming with me and when she saw purple sandpipers, and saw how stunning their plumage is, she really enjoyed it.”

About 50 species were seen during the Tatamagouche event.

Counts are held around the world around Christmas time and each one covers a circle 24-kilometres in diameter. There were 35 in Nova Scotia this season.

More information about birds in the area can be found on the Nova Scotia Bird Society website at .