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123rd Lake Erie Islands Christmas Bird Count
The Lake Erie Islands Count Circle of the 123rd annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held on December 18th, 2022, with people participating on Middle Bass, South Bass, Kelleys and Pelee Island. This is one of the oldest citizen science efforts around-and a fun tradition to get out and enjoy our islands wild places in a quieter time of year! Thanks to all who helped out and those property owners who allowed us access for the day!
It was a relatively warm day again this year with open water around the islands. The warmer weather made for a quieter count both in the woods and at feeders. Total for all four islands together was a respectable 71 species and 19,802 individual birds counted.
Here on South Bass Island, we counted 4,237 birds of 43 different species from dawn to dusk. Lisa Brohl, Sandy Funtal, Elizabeth Heineman, Richard Gump, and Julene Market drove and walked around the island to tally waterfowl and land birds. The most numerous birds were European Starlings, with 1096 counted on the island that day. I had been sent videos and photos of the “murmurations” or large flocks moving together the whole month of December from island residents on South Bass and Middle Bass. These nonnative birds winter in large feeding flocks in open fields or shorelines on the islands-eating everything they can find-seeds, invertebrates, snails, etc-leaving no food left in their wake! Predators are more likely to catch the nearest prey, so the swirling of a murmuration could happen as individual birds try to move toward the safer middle of the crowd. The more birds in a flock, the more eyes and ears to detect the predator before it’s too late. Starlings are cavity nesters and often take nesting habitat away from native species. But their flocks are impressive to watch!
Second most numerous were waterfowl-with 1008 red-breasted mergansers, followed by Canada Geese at 233 as well as numbers of diving scaup, bufflehead, common goldeneye. A few double crested cormorants were still present on Alligator Bar. Good birds seen were black ducks on the eastern shore, a pied-billed grebe near Oak Point, and a Trumpeter Swan in the pond. Great horned owls were recorded at a number of locations and just one eastern screech owl was heard. The most exciting views were of the 10 northern flickers found in Beck Woods-with five on the same tree at one time! Sandy and Lisa were without cameras so no photos of these beautiful birds as they fed on poison ivy berries. Count week birds were found as follows: Great Blue Heron-Susan Ferguson, Walter Duff-Belted Kingfisher, Sandy Funtal-Brown Creeper, Pam Stephens-Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Russ Brohl, Kit Knaser, Ruth Scarpelli, Michelle Heinemen, Carmen Trisler, Sarah Toole, Dino Uszak, Pam Stephens, Maryann, Anita, and Elizabeth McCann, Susan Ferguson, Walt Duff, Jim O’Donnell and Renee Fultz each watched their feeders and yards that day to record the birds and woodpeckers who came to visit. Large numbers of northern cardinals, downy woodpeckers, black-capped chickadees, dark eyed juncoes visited island feeders. The best feeder bird was an immature red-headed woodpecker that was seen by both Pam Stephens and Carmen Trisler at their feeders-it has been around all winter-an unusual sighting for us usually only seen here in migration!
Some birds were notably absent this year such as the usually present tufted titmouse and there were no sparrows recorded in the field or at feeders that day.
On Middle Bass, Tyler McClain and Mariah Shearer walked and drove the island with assistance from Teddi Keith Morris to tally a total of 2953 birds of 41 different species with the most numerous birds being European Starlings with 850. They found gadwalls, redheads, and canvasbacks in the large number of waterfowl as well as swamp, song and white-throated sparrows missed on South Bass.
Pelee Island got the only wild turkeys, killdeer and harrier, and lots of mourning doves-thanks to all the field and forested habitat there. 4338 birds of 37 species were counted. Pelee’s most numerous birds were the large rafts of scaup at 3650 off the south shore and Fish Point and noticeably absent were the European Starlings present on all the other islands. A total of 9 Bald eagles were seen around the island. Along the dyke at Wilds of Pelee a lot of Northern Cardinals and Black-capped Chickadees were hiding in the dense dogwood habitat and 10 brown creepers were counted by Lisa and Brian Kipp. Participating in this years count were Lisa and Brian Kipp, Deb Crawford, David and Carol Snell, Sumiko Onishi and Graeme Gibson.
The observers at Kelleys found a red-necked grebe, surf scoter, long-tailed duck, and lesser black-backed gull-all good birds to see this time of year. At Kelleys, the most numerous bird was the red-breasted mergansers at 3557 followed by 2320 European Starlings, They were the only island to record hooded mergansers, hermit thrush, yellow-bellied sapsucker, yellow-rumped warblers, and eastern bluebird-owing to the variety of habitat and the eagle eye observers there. Participants were John Pogacnik, Alexi Panehal Tom and Paula Bartlett, Emily Beal, Kari Warner, Lee and Sandy Tkach, Sean Williams and Chris Ashley.
Final results and species counts will be posted on the Lake Erie Islands Conservancy website at www.lakeerieislandsconservancy.org once approved by Lake Erie Island Count Circle coordinator John Pogacnik. Thanks to everyone for participating!
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