Weather blamed for mixed bag of a bird count at Point Pelee
Despite a record-number of more than 10,000 goldeneye ducks spotted during the annual Point Pelee bird count, the results are considered mixed this year.
A team of 28 people fanned out over the area Dec. 21 and catalogued the number of birds and the types of species at Canada's most southern national park, in Leamington, Ont.
The 28-person team walked or drove a combined 450 km over 60 hours counting birds.
Preliminary numbers show more than 59,000 birds from a combined 86 species were counted.
Some species that regularly make an appearance, like the Carolina wren, were not found.
Others, like the common golden eye duck, were found in record numbers.
Birding expert Sarah Rupert, who works at Point Pelee National Park and compiled the data, said weather patterns this year and last affected the count.
Small birds were hard to find this year because it rained all day on Dec. 21.
Some birds that typically leave in October are still hanging around because this fall and early winter have been so warm, due, in part, to the El Nino weather phenomenon. And, northern birds haven't moved south for the same reason.
"A lot of species that typically would be here haven't got here. They just haven't got this far yet because there's been no need to move," Rupert said.
For the first time in more than 30 years not a single Carolina wren was spotted. The last time it went missing was in the 1983 bird count.
"It usually corresponds to snow depth. They can't get the food they normally eat," Rupert said of the Carolina wren population. "The Carolina wren is one of those birds that doesn't migrate so it's one of the birds that hangs out at Point Pelee all year round. But when you have severe, harsh winters like we've had the last two years, sometimes, these birds don't survive."
This year's event was Jeremy Bensette's fourth count. He says he participates in the hopes of finding a species new to the area.
He says the area is a treasure trove for avid bird enthusiasts like himself.
"Point Pelee is probably the best place in Canada for bird watching. It's just a geographical funnel kind of, both for the northern birds coming down in the fall, as well as the southern birds coming up in the spring," he said.