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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Great Backyard Bird Count 2018


17 February 2018

     For the sixth year in a row Waterloo Region Nature has conducted a Great Backyard Bird Count, organized by that stalwart of stalwarts, Mary Ann Vanden Elzen.


     In life you meet people who leave their mark due to their good nature, their dedication and their sheer humanity. Mary Ann is one of those people, a wonderful friend and colleague, a delight and an inspiration.
     We all met at a local shopping plaza to car pool and depart for our first hosts on the morning's itinerary.


      By the time we left the parking lot about twenty-five people had joined our group and we headed off to the beautiful rural property of Jim Cappelman and Irene Simpson who opened their doors to everyone and provided copious snacks, including hot coffee and mulled cider. Their little cinnamon buns were delicious! Everything was, of course.

Irene and Jim


     Jim and Irene's poodle, Mojo, having given everyone the appropriate welcoming licks, muscled in to join the photograph session.
      Now this is the kind of birding that even the faintest of faint hearts can enjoy, even the wimpiest disparager of winter can revel in. You stand by a series of large windows looking out onto an array of bird feeders, all the while sipping cider and munching on sweets. It doesn't get much better than this!




     At this time of year one does not expect to see a large number of species, especially in the all too brief time we spent there, but there was a pleasing variety nonetheless. Several participants were new to our club and new to birding, so the fact that the birds were so close enabled those of us with a little more experience to explain some of the finer points of identification and provide a little extra information.

Hairy Woodpecker (Leuonotopicus villosus)

American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)


Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) and American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)


Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)


    All too soon it was time to move on to our next destination.



All species at the Cappleman property: Canada Goose (29), Mourning Dove (15), Downy Woodpecker (4), Hairy Woodpecker (1), Black-capped Chickadee (6), American Goldfinch (7), Dark-eyed Junco (4), American Tree Sparrow (1), Northern Cardinal (3). 
Total: 9

     Our next stop was at the rare Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge where we all assembled at the Eco Centre to observe the feeders there. Once again goodies were on hand in the form of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, brownies and cookies. The view of the feeders (which look like they need a little repair) was best outside at this location.




     A Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) was perched at the side of one of the feeders with a broken perch; the other feeder was missing the perch altogether.

    A few dedicated watchers gathered in the parking lot for a picture before going in for refreshments.



     We had been a little surprised not to have seen House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) at the Cappelman feeders, but we made up for it here.




         A cooperative Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) was back and forth at the feeders.




        It was well observed by several delighted birders.





     All species at rare Charitable Research Reserve: Mourning Dove (1), Downy Woodpecker (2), Hairy Woodpecker (1), Blue Jay (2), Black-capped Chickadee (4), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), House Finch (20), American Goldfinch (8), American Tree Sparrow (1), Northern Cardinal (1). Total: 10


     We left rare and travelled to Lakeside Park in Kitchener where we were led on a short walk by Mary Ann with an informative commentary about the park.




     Lakeside Park had existed for many decades with a contiguous unit of forest 
owned by the City of Kitchener, adjacent to Shoemaker Pond, but effectively forming part of the park. In 2009 the City declared that it had identified various properties as "surplus parkland," ripe for development, and this parcel of forest was one of them. I cannot think of a more oxymoronic statement than that! The Lakeside neighbourhood arose in strong opposition to this proposal (as did many others in park lands affected throughout the city). In the end, with the help of many individuals the Lakeside woodlands were saved.



    


     For many of us, myself included, it was our first visit to this location, and we were very happy to make the discovery. You may rest assured that I will be back and a Tuesday Morning Ramble with David or two will be happening here.




     The City of Kitchener has embraced the park in a very positive way, and my good friend, Josh Shea, the Natural Areas Coordinator for the city, has been instrumental in various enhancements to the park, including the planting of native species of trees and the creation of a turtle beach. Mary Ann was laudatory in her discussion of the level of cooperation between the city and dedicated citizens.




     The artwork for the signs was created by Emily Damstra, a superb local artist, who resides nearby in Guelph. Emily has been commissioned in so many ways and I invite you to check out her work on line. We are fortunate indeed to have such talent in our own community.
      Miriam espied this maple leaf lying intact on the snow and it seemed like a very fitting image for a walk by passionate Canadians.


All species at Lakeside Park: Red-tailed Hawk (1), Downy Woodpecker (1), American Crow (1), Black-capped Chickadee (1).

     Our final stop was at the home of Alan and Brenda Holvey, where they welcomed us all for lunch, having ordered enough pizzas to feed our group of around twenty people. In addition they had grapes, cookies and other items available and coffee and soft drinks. It was truly amazing hospitality.


     I don't think that Alan and Brenda will be upset if I mention that they are around ninety years of age, still in their own home, vibrant, humorous and relevant. It was a treat to be with them.
     Kudos go to another member of Waterloo Region Nature, Marion Kelterborn, who lives a few houses away and came to help the Hoveys get everything ready for our visit. Marion is another one of those people who personifies kindness.
     The activity at their feeders was not especially great with most of the birds being House Sparrows (Passer domesticus).


     I have missed these backyard bird counts in previous years, always having had a conflict which did not permit me to take part. I can assure you that Miriam and I will henceforth be regulars and we will put the date on our calendar as soon as it is announced.
     I enjoyed myself immensely and I know that Miriam did too. Our thanks go out again to Mary Ann for organizing such an enjoyable event, to all the gracious hosts and my fellow naturalists who came out to enjoy both the birds and each other. 
     Waterloo Region Nature truly is The Best Little Naturalists Club in Ontario!

All species at the Hovey residence: Downy Woodpecker (1), Black-capped Chickadee (2), House Sparrow (40), American Goldfinch (1), Dark-eyed Junco (1).

Interesting reading:  

http://e360.yale.edu/features/in-defense-of-biodiversity-why-protecting-species-from-extinction-matters

61 comments:

  1. Hello David!
    Everyone is having a good time!
    Such a lovely group of birdwatchers!
    You all did see so many beautiful species!
    Great captures of the cute House Finch ant the Dark Eyed Junko that i have never seen before!
    Wishing you a happy Sunday!
    Dimi...

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  2. Hari OM
    One of the things I loved when more active, was the company of those with this common interest. The Cumberland Observers was a friendly and fun place to pick up knowledge of my adopted country's birdlife to add to my UK 'library'.

    Your Header shot is a beauty - is it "Maria"? YAM xx

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    1. Hello YAM. It is indeed Maria, although I am inclined to think it might have been Mario since it was seen to clamber onto the back of another bird!

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    2. &*> ... still an impressive character to have the privilege of meeting! Yxx

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  3. Hello David,

    Nice to see your fellowship of birdwatchers! It must be wonderful to be so many who have the same interest. You have little snow compared with here.

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  4. One day I hope to have a backyard...............

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    1. It can certainly be a place of great enjoyment, to say nothing of the patio mid summer where we eat almost every meal. A plate of lemon, garlic chicken with an orzo salad, some caprese and a glass of cold white wine seems just about perfect right now!

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  5. Sounds like fun as well as being useful to know what is flying around. Ending up with a drink and pizza just rounds it all off. Take care Diane

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  6. Despite the unrelenting cold weather there's no doubt that Canadian gardens support a greater varity of birds than the average British garden. This morning I counted Great Tit, Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Robin and Gooldfinch. That's about it.

    Well, well, cinnamon buns and coffee. There's a novelty for you David.

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  7. Wow this is a great way of counting and observing birds with all that warm drinks and goodies to fill up with energy. The captures you took, Miriam, give a good impression of birds and birdwatchers.
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. Maybe we filled with a little too much energy, Roos! This was the least strenuous birding I can imagine, but great fun.

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  8. Sounds like a great way to spend a morning, David, provided you don't do it too often, otherwise you'd be in danger of getting soft and suffering an expanding waistline. It also appears to be a great way of getting novices on board.

    With love to you both - - - Richard

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    1. Yep, once a year is enough! Hard to beat the hospitality from wonderful people and the sheer pleasure of being with a group of like-minded people.

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  9. Hi David
    Enjoy this walk in the snow!
    Birds are hungry, it is easy to observe them. Their colors are so beautiful in your country too!

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  10. The Cappelman/Simpsons sound like wonderful people and I would enjoy that bird watching. Love to be out in the good weather but not that great with the snow! You saw some wonderful birds, though. Far more than we see at Lizzie's feeder outside our window.

    Thanks for your blogger comment on Marmelade Gypsy. I never knew that the rosettes were a Mennonite thing. As I learn more about my Mennonite ancestors, I find things like that very interesting! So thanks for that and for coming by!

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  11. It was a beautiful day for everyone, and the hospitality of the hosts was wonderful. It is wonderful that there are so many beautiful birds near the houses and they enjoy the eyes. It's good that a piece of natural nature is preserved in the city. Regards.

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  12. Thank you David for taking your blog readers on this bird watching trip, you seem to have had a very nice day together. I would be pleased if I could recognize any of those birds but they are not familiar to me. We have woodpeckers of course but not those in your pictures.

    Större hackspett Dendrocopos major is visiting here every day in wintertime and a few times I´ve been lucky to see Dryobates minor. The woodpeckers are having a difficult time because of the way we are treat our nature.

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    1. So many species are imperilled, Gunilla. It is beyond belief how we have ruined the planet.

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  13. Looks like a grand time was had by all. I enjoyed seeing the birds in your photos. Very nice also being out with a group of people who share their love for birds.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Hi Both,
    What a wonderful idea by Mary.
    If I've got it correct, you get people to have open house for you and your fellow cohorts to watch the garden birds, they supply food and beverage, then after your fill at house one, move onto to house two and start again etc, I must admit I'm up for this idea.
    Seriously wonderful idea with some super images then you find another site to visit with your Tuesday group.
    All the best to you both,
    John

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    1. Not a bad deal, huh? Maybe we’ll include your house next year on an international visit and you’ll have to supply Barn Owl shaped cookies,

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    2. Hi Both,
      You are always welcome, not sure about the Barn Owl Cookies.
      All the best. John

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  15. What a fun adventure for you and your group. Glad it was fun and you saw a nice series of birds.

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  16. Alan and Brenda around 90 years old - how wonderful.
    A happy bunch of people there enjoying a chat and bird watching.

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    1. They are not only gracious but wonderfully entertaining.

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  17. Now that sounds like a fantastic introduction to me!

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  18. Hi David.

    Beautiful surroundings.
    Beautiful birds the woodpecker is super nice.

    Groettie from Patricia.

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  19. I cant offer that level of diversity in my garden - but I do have a reliable (well sort of) location for platypus! Its a bit of a drive - but you may be interested.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    Replies
    1. Miriam, Franc and Carol all chimed in - they are all set for it too!

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  20. what inspiring people areAlan and Brenda. I hope I will still have that much energy when I reach their age. Nice post focussing on the birding community as well as the birds.

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  21. The hosts with the most! What a fun way to spend the GBBC!

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  22. Lots of birds and humans, I love them all David. And, the Hairy Woodpecker, superb.

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  23. Very enjoyable outing. I have to say your winter sightings were all the same as some of our backyard "regulars" here in Bluff Country (Southeastern Minnesota) Thanks for stopping by my nature blog..:)

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  24. This is such a happy post; thank you David. I love everything about it -- the idea of the bird count (which we've never been able to take part in) has always aPpealed to me. It's wonderful that you experts were there to offer help to the newbies ... and that you found that lovely new birding spot ... and the wonderful hosts.
    Such lovely and vital people .... loving and living each day (with friends and birds) .... my wish for our future.

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  25. It's good that in spite of the extreme weather there are so many people eager to watch birds, although I find it curious to see the photos they see behind the windows, at least you went out to walk a little outside. The best thing of all I imagine is that it was shared rich food and drink, especially there will have been interesting talks among friends. I'm glad that more and more people are enjoying the birds
    Best regards

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    1. Hola Hernán: The whole purpose of this event, which is held every year across the entire North American continent, is to catalogue the species coming to people's feeders, to help quantify and otherwise assess the population of urban birds.

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  26. That sounds a very sociable way to spend the day. There used to be a pub on the Northumberland coast in the UK which would allow a few tripods and scopes to be set up in the bar so you could watch the shorebirds and enjoy a few pints at the same time.

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    1. Hello John: I think that after a few pints I would be seeing a few strange rarities!

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  27. How fantastic, a great way to do the count :)

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  28. Hello, sounds like you and your group had a great outing and count. I counted for the GBBC in my backyard. Great series of photos. Enjoy your day and happy birding.

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  29. Hello David, I have heard of the counting in Norway too. I love this time of the year when we can hear the birds sing again,

    Ida

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  30. Looks like great fun - especially viewing the feeders from the warmth and hospitality of people's homes !

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  31. You have shared a lot of beautiful birds and people who love birds!
    They have a common interest and share the same time for bird watching.
    Alan and Brenda, their hospitality is wonderful. How beautiful our life is!
    Have a good new week,David.

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  32. Looks like a nice group of people and a lot of fun. It seems like the American Finch is always arguing with the other birds at the feeder, and I noticed that in your picture. I love all the birds. Thank you for visiting.

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  33. Awesome bird count experience! So many faithfuls joining in, and your wonderful hosts and leader too! The goldfinch is just stunning! Loved all the photos.

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  34. I wonder why they call it the mourning dove? I looked, but did not find an explanation at all.

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    1. Hi Radha: It is because it makes a very sad sounding, doleful call, like someone in mourning.

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  35. Such an interesting post - and great photos, as always.
    Happy birding!
    PS The RHS book (of my previous post) is published also by Chicago University Press under the title Plant Families: A Guide for Gardeners and Botanists.
    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo27499333.html

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  36. What wonderful outings and bird watching as a team! It is always fun to have people with the same interest coming together! Beautiful birds!

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  37. I like the way your bird club travels on its stomachs! What a fun day. I stuck to my own actual backyard (which included my front yard) in Georgetown, SC, and maybe you would have fun seeing my list for the 17th: Goldfinch, house finch, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, yellow-rumped warbler, yellow throated warbler, grackle, cowbird, starling, red winged blackbird, red-bellied woodpecker, mockingbird, robin, white-crowned sparrow, towhee, brown thrasher, Cardinal, bluejay, house sparrow, white-breasted nuthatch, chickadee, Ruby-crowned kinglet.

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    1. Great great list of species! Next year you’ll have to come up here and do it with us!

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  38. Hello David,
    Wonderful series of photos of these beautiful bird species.
    Nice group of people together who go birding.
    Best regards, Irma

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  39. What a fabulous day you had. So many beautiful birds and lots of great food and company.

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  40. One for you David.


    https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/birds-animals-cardinals-rare-yellow-spd/

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  41. Estimado David es un verdadero placer ver como disfrutais de las maravillosas aves, las fotos son preciosas. ENHORABUENA POR TUS BUENOS AMIGOS. Un fuerte abrazo para todos.

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  42. I cannot stand groups, happy to see your photos of them, though! My in-laws lived in Kitchener. Been there lots.

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  43. What do have against groups of like-minded people enjoying life together? For me it’s better than a family reunion - I can’t choose who goes to the latter.

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