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Snowless winter impacts Sarnia’s Christmas bird count

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Troy Shantz

They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. That was certainly the case for one group during Lambton Wildlife’s second annual Christmas Bird Count.

After nearly an hour of searching in Canatara Park their scorecard read: 1 squirrel. O birds.

Club member Brandon Edwards said snow-covered ground this time of year normally attracts hungry birds to the 100-acre park habitat to feed on nuts, seeds and berries.

But the weather this year has been anything but typical, he added.

“Canatara is actually one of the best places in Sarnia to look for birds. It’s got a unique habitat,” he told a group he led through Tarzanland’s trails.

“If we don’t get a lot of birds we’ll have a good lesson on trees.”

Armed with binoculars and a checklist of species, five groups of about 10 participants each scoured the treetops in Canatara, which is part of the Carolinian forest zone of southern Ontario.

Collectively, they recorded 16 species and 186 individual birds, many of them long-tailed ducks. One group saw two Cooper’s hawks and another spotted a brown creeper.

Last year, in the same location, about 2,000 individual birds and 21 species were recorded, Edwards said.

The tallies are submitted to Birds Canada, which collects data from hundreds of Christmas bird counts held across the country between Dec. 15 and Jan. 4.

That information is used by biologists to track the health of bird populations.

The first Christmas count was organized by the Audubon Society in 1900, making it the longest running citizen science project in North America.

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