Raptor counter viewing stand grand opening

photo by Gardner Walker

On October 1st the Raptor counters viewing platform was officially opened. On hand were Eva Visscher, donors Karen and Eric Auzins, the man who put so many hours into seeing his vision to completion Bob Johnstone and Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn. The viewing platform consists of concrete anchor blocks all the way around and filled with packing chips and dust. The platform is elevated and protected with wooden railing. The entrance is graded for easy access.

Hawk Cliff Knoll sign for raptor identifying.

There is an identification board beside the viewing stand designed by Eva Visscher who took the time from her university studies to enhance the site and allow people to see images of raptors they might be able to see flying overhead.

All Bob’s hard work would not have seen completion if not for the generous donation of Karen and Eric Auzins. The land owner Steve Ivan and Central Elgin with the help of mayor Sally Martyn. The stand should be around for many years and maybe assist in drawing new hawk counters to the location.

Joe Konecny of North Shore Beacon did a wonderful story on the opening. The same story also featured in the October 5th issue of the Aylmer Express.

Dave Brown, the official counter at Hawk Cliff Hawk Watch has a great article on the Hawk Cliff Hawk Watch here.

Many thanks to Bob for all the hard work.

Fellow members St. Thomas Field Naturalist Club.

Hawk Cliff Woods Migration Weekend

The event this year will be on October 1st and 2nd, one weekend only.
9:30 am – Thames Talbot Land Trust hike
11:00 am – Hawk Cliff Raptor Banders presentation
1:00 pm – Monarch Watch presentation, showing tagging of butterflies and travels to Mexico
2:00 pm – Hawk Cliff Raptor Banders presentation

All events are run by volunteers.

Duck Rally 2022

Wood Duck photo taken by Michele Carnerie in Port Stanley harbour.

With life starting to return to normal, we are pleased to say that the St. Thomas Field Naturalist Club annual Duck Rally will be resuming. Next Saturday we start at Aylmer WMA with the Tundra Swans. Amazingly 18 species of duck have been reported in Elgin this month. We also have reports of Ross’s Goose at Port Stanley Lagoons, Snow Goose at Doug Tarry Sport Complex, Sandhill Cranes are back north of Dutton. So far 88 species have been reported for Elgin this month. Should make for a very good first outing in a very long time. Looking forward to seeing everyone next Saturday. Attached is the itinerary for this years rally.

STFNC Elgin Adventure summary

Photo of Hooded Warbler taken by Eva Visscher at Hawk Cliff

Hello folks I bet you thought I had forgot about that great day several weeks ago. Well maybe I did. The weather was pretty good at 10 degrees and windy, thanks Brenda for the reminder.

There were a total of 136 species reported for the day. List of birds is attached. Eva Visscher had the best bird with a Hooded Warbler. There were many others, the Common Gallinule are still being seen at Yarmouth NHA, spotted by Reuven Martin and others.

Reuven also saw a Ruffed Grouse (reported 2 years ago by Paul Nicholson at Hawk Cliff), Swamp Sparrow, Northern Waterthrush and Pine Siskin at Port Burwell Provincial Park.

Eva Visscher and Al Hurst both saw Northern Parula. Eva also saw Black-throated Green Warbler, Blue-headed and Warbling Vireo, Vesper Sparrow and Swainson’s Thrush. Al Hurst had Great Horned Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Eastern Meadowlark. Al has been my mentor for many years and greatly appreciated everything he has taught me. There are many members in the club who are willing to help people new to the natural marvels of Elgin County.

Newest club member Aaron Kuntz got the Wood Duck. Lucas Foerster added Red-breasted Merganser and Cliff Swallows. The Spicer Family and friends reported Sora, American Coot, Pileated Woodpecker, Bobolink, Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler and seven duck species.

Bob Johnston and Cary Graham also got the Cliff Swallow, American Redstart, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Beth Ann Connors from Port Stanley reported the Orchard Oriole. Sandra Leys got Purple Martins and a Marsh Wren at the sewage lagoons in Rodney.

Raymond Roth reported a Ovenbird and Hooded Mergansers (missed on list) at Yarmouth NHA.

Anita Caveney got a Purple Finch at MeadowWoods Nature Preserve (this 105 acre property was donated to Thames Talbot Land Trust by Anita and Stan last fall – Awesome).

Su Redmond reported Pied-billed Grebe, Green Heron and sadly 4 freshly and tragically deceased Purple Martins across road from East viewing stand at Port Stanley lagoons.

To date we have raised $475 for Birds Canada and province wide $122,127 has been raised towards their goal of $200,000. Thank you to all who have donated and reminder donations will be greatfully  accepted until Dec 31st.

This year we had a total of 17 different Warblers vs 23 last year, really a nice list considering there did not seem to be a fall out day this spring. This year was also 8 days earlier than last year, so really great results.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to send me their lists and the sightings reported on eBird. The grand total was 136 species seen this year compared to 144 last year.

Hoping we will all be able to get together, possibly in July at Pinafore Park. Fingers crossed.

Enjoy the warm weather and great birding;
Al Sharpe

2020 Christmas Bird Count Results

Results of St. Thomas Field Naturalist Club 2020 CBC held on Dec 26, 2020.

Photograph of Trumpeter Swan taken at Port Stanley Sewage Lagoon by Diane Dobson.

We had natures coat of snow to thank for our success this year. Birds were flocking to feeders and waters were a mixed bag of frozen and unfrozen. Ponds you would expect to be frozen were open and vice versa. We had 48 people out looking this year, they saw 80 species and a total of 17,836 birds. A Trumpeter Swan, Canvasback and Hoary Redpoll were seen on count week.

The unusual species we were expecting from the poor pine cone season up north partially arrived. We had George’s 12 White-winged Crossbill and 113 Common Redpoll with a Hoary Redpoll for count week. The hemp fields at the corner of Fairview and Dexter Line are attracting them in the hundreds. No Snowy Owl reported on count day.

The Ontario wing tagged (V53) Trumpeter Swan at Port Stanley Sewage Lagoons seen by the Auckland’s was a first for our CBC on count week and is still staying in the partially open waters of pond 2 with a Tundra Swan. The Tundra Swans set a new high of 364 almost a hundred more than the previous high set almost a decade ago.The Bufflehead’s stayed this winter with a good showing of 42 approaching our high of 50.

The resurgence of Bald Eagles was revealed in our count with 40 almost a 25 percent jump over our previous high. Everyone was hearing and seeing the noisy Carolina Wren and they established a new high of 30 also a 20 percent jump over previous high. The Common Yellowthroat seen at Yarmouth NHA by the Howe family was only the second reported for our CBC, the last reporting was over 4 decades ago.

With global warming maybe the Savannah Sparrows are thinking of wintering here. We had 3 this year which is a new high. The Turkey Vultures are really liking the Port Stanley area with 67 being reported.

This years totals mean the club has seen 1,081,399 birds with an average of 70 species a year. Our number of volunteers is still good with a club average of 39 and we had 48 volunteers out this Covid-19 season.

Click here for a complete list of this years birds.

All in all a very good day. You can see that each year has it’s surprises and misses, which makes doing the count such a joy.

2019 Christmas Bird Count Results

Results of St. Thomas Field Naturalist Club 2019 CBC
held on Dec 26, 2019

Two Horned Lark in January

This year we had above zero degree temperatures and green grass. The standing waters were mostly frozen and the moving waters were mostly open. We had 52 people out looking this year, they saw 64 species and a total of 11,992 birds. 1 Eastern Phoebe on count week.

This is consistent with last 2 years of 12,324 in 2017 and 11,501 in 2018. Over last 10 years we have averaged 76 species. We have seen a total of 114 species in last 10 years. Over the 71 years we have averaged 39 participants, 70 species and almost 15,000 birds with a grand total of 155 species seen.

George Prieksaitis got a Killdeer, which has only been reported in 9 of the 71 count years. The new high counts this year were Winter Wren (5), Redhead (2).

Wild Turkey did a poor showing with only 31, yet the 13 Turkey Vulture were a nice continuation since they seem to like over wintering in Port Stanley area in recent years. Does anyone know where they are roosting?

22 Bald Eagles this year, 6 Eastern Screech-Owl seen or heard and 3 Great Horned Owl.

Good sightings included 4 Belted Kingfisher, 51 Red-bellied Woodpecker. 39 Hairy Woodpecker approaching our high of 44. 7 Pileated Woodpecker, 14 Tufted Titmouse vs a high of 17 last year. 70 Eastern Bluebird, 7 American Robin, 22 Cedar Waxwing and 4 Eastern Towhee.

Conspicuous by their absence were Bonaparte’s Gull seen on 39 previous counts. Long-eared Owl seen on 47 previous counts. Northern Shrike and Field Sparrow proved to be elusive this year. Winter birds had a poor showing with only 8 Horned Lark, 10 Snow Bunting and no Lapland Longspur.

Click here For a complete list of this years birds .

We would like to thank everyone who made the pot luck such a feast. Jackie and I appreciate all the effort everyone put into making this CBC a success and look forward to Dec 26, 2020.

North America down 3 BILLION birds

The Journal Science last fall reported that since 1970 North America is down 3 billion birds. We knew there was a problem. That is over 25% of the population. Only raptors with the elimination of DDT have made a massive recovery (over 200%), ducks and geese and vireos were the other real increase. Grassland birds suffered the most down 50%. If you want to read the rest of the article here is the link.

2018 Christmas Bird Count

Barred Owl sighting at Storey Wetlands photo by Chris Leys

As December is upon us it is time to think about the 119th Annual Christmas Bird Count. This is St. Thomas’s 70th count. We will be doing the count on Boxing Day, Wednesday the 26th of December. This is the longest running citizen science project. Each year has new highs and a few surprise misses. We do our count in a 24 km circle. The volunteers can start any time they would like. There is a great pot luck dinner held at Knox Presbyterian Church at 55 Hincks St in St. Thomas after the count, doors open at 4:45 pm and supper at 6 p.m.

The Count is sponsored each year by Bird Studies Canada and National Audubon Society in the U.S. This year, the CBC will mobilize over 72,000 bird counters in more than 2,500 locations across the Western Hemisphere.

To learn more go to www.birdscanada.org/volunteer/cbc/

Audubon has a free Bird Guide app with over 800 species of North American birds, right in your pocket. The app is available for iPhone, Android and Amazon Fire tablets. This would be a good tool for the day.

The Christmas Bird Count is a tradition that everyone can participate in.
Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun community science project, which provided ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months. To help count birds for science and participate in this year’s count.
Contact: Allan or Jackie Sharpe
226-271-7018 or asharpe@outlook.com or jrochefort@outlook.com

2018 Great Canadian Birdathon


The St. Thomas Field Naturalist Club date for The Great Canadian Birdathon is May 12th. We will meet at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Rose Beach Line and Kent Bridge Rd, just outside of Rondeau Provincial Park. We will walk along Bates Dr to Pike St, back to vehicles via Rose Beach Line. We will then head into the park. Lunch will be at the Visitors Centre and those that wish can join us at Rondeau Joe’s for supper. For more info or to sponsor the club please phone Al Hurst 519-633-4235. All the money raised goes to bird conservation in Canada, a portion goes to Bird Studies Canada and a portion to St. Thomas Field Naturalist Club. Hope to see you there.

Aylmer Tundra Swans 2018

Tundra Pond showing Goose Island.

The Tundra Swans have arrived at Aylmer Wildlife Management Area, part of their initial staging area. They are currently averaging about 1000 Swans a day.
The Elgin Stewardship Council was formed in 1997 and has been looking after the area since then and feeds the swans 23 to 25 bushels of shelled corn every day about 9 a.m. There are volunteers each day from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to answer any questions.

The Tundra’s spend almost a third of the year going from their wintering grounds around Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina to their nesting areas on the West coast of Hudson Bay, Central High arctic or the Mackenzie Delta, up to a 6000 kilometer journey.

Aylmer WMA has 4 viewing stands, 2 of which are open and 2 which are enclosed (1 wheelchair accessible). This area has been declared a globally Important Bird Area and the ponds a Provincially Significant Wetland. Aylmer WMA is perhaps the best place in North America to see Tundra Swans up close.

Aylmer WMA was originally #14 Service Flying Training School RCAF until 1961.

The Aylmer-Malahide Museum offer a Tundra Swan Line you can call and find out how many Tundra Swans are at Aylmer WMA on that day, call 519-773-SWAN(7926).

To get to Aylmer WMA via GPS use 10594 Hacienda Rd, Aylmer, ON.