Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Bird Counting

For a birder, the annual Christmas Bird Count ("CBC") is as much a part of the holidays as turkey dinner. My first CBC was in Bowmanville in 1998 and since then I've participated in counts in Kitchener, Hamilton, Fisherville, Algonquin Park and memorably Red Lake (where the count tally was something like 5 species). This year we plan to do the same counts as last year: Kitchener, Hamilton and Fisherville.

The Cambridge count was on December 15th (last Saturday). It was a good day overall. This was the 5th time we had done our count area so we have it pretty down pat. Our best bird was a Hermit Thrush on Bethel Road.

The Fisherville count might be my favourite. Hannah & I do it on our own and we have a nice little sliver of an area that takes in a little bit of waterfront and wooded area in addition to the expansive agricultural fields. A couple of weeks ago we were in the area and saw a Rusty Blackbird just south of Selkirk. Maybe he will stick around.

As much of a tradition as it is to do a CBC here at home, it would be fun to try one in Miami for a change. It must be fun to do one wearing shorts!

Monday, December 10, 2012

To All The Gulls I've Loved Before


It is that time of the birding year in Ontario when thoughts turn to the family Laridae (gulls), as reflected by recent posts by others in my blog roll.

I would really like to get in on the action, but I have nothing rare to report (I never do) and no bragging rights to exercise (although there was that Slaty-backed from last year...). Anyway, failing that I thought I would give a personal gull retrospective. All taxonomy is according to The Clements Checklist.

I guess a good place to start is with the numbers. There are 52 species of gull worldwide. I might as well own up that I have personally ticked the following 24:

  1. Black-legged Kittiwake
  2. Sabine's Gull
  3. Slender-billed Gull
  4. Boneparte's Gull
  5. Black-headed Gull
  6. Little Gull
  7. Laughing Gull
  8. Franklin's Gull
  9. Sooty Gull
  10. Heerman's Gull
  11. Mew Gull
  12. Ring-billed Gull
  13. Western Gull
  14. California Gull
  15. Herring Gull
  16. Yellow-legged Gull
  17. Armenian Gull
  18. Thayer's Gull
  19. Iceland Gull
  20. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  21. Slaty-backed Gull
  22. Glaucous-winged Gull
  23. Glaucous Gull
  24. Great Black-backed Gull
That's almost half of the world's gulls, and if all goes according to plan I should be ticking Kelp Gull and Hartlaub's Gull in a month or so. Fingers crossed!

As well, gulls like to hybridize and I have observed what I think (or have been told) were the following hybrid crosses:
  1. Herring X Great Black-backed Gull
  2. Herring X Glaucous Gull (Nelson's Gull)
  3. Western X Glaucous-winged Gull
Which only leaves me to confess my most wanted gull. For some bird families it might be a difficult choice for me, but in this case it is crystal clear: Ross's Gull.