CBC introduction

1996-97 Christmas Bird Count Results in New Brunswick

The following comments are based on 40 of an expected 47 counts within New Brunswick in 1996-97. A fuller analysis appeared in the N.B. Naturalist / Le Naturalist du N.-B., Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 23-34; Spring 1997.

It was a very mild Christmas season with unusually little ice and snow. This allowed birds such as 10 Great Blue Herons, 2 Wood Ducks, and 4 American Wigeon to stay and survive late. Never-the-less, species totals were not exceptional.

These 40 counts report 124 species on count day (plus 4 additional during count period). The remaining 7 counts (3 coastal, 4 inland) will surely increase these numbers.

The widespread occurrence of AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES this winter shows well on the counts. In fact, their numbers are the highest in 35 years of CBCs. 1118 at Mactaquac is a new CBC record for our province. EVENING GROSBEAKS, in below average numbers overall, were most prominent along the Saint John valley from Cambridge-Narrows to the Tobique.

PINE GROSBEAK and COMMON REDPOLL were very low (but undoubtedly doing fine somewhere else), even being exceeded in total numbers by that newcomer, the HOUSE FINCH, which continues to be numerous in the three southern cities.

PINE SISKIN and WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL were generally scarce, though there were 329 siskins and 310 crossbills at Kedgwick, which also had the most PURPLE FINCHES, 77. It was one of the few areas reporting a large cone crop. Purple Finches are usually not widespread on our CBCs, the bulk of them being seen near the western edge of the province. This season, Kedgwick and the upper Saint John valley account for 76% of the total. Another good crossbill count was 148 at Stanley.

Of our two common wintering sparrows, TREE SPARROW numbers were below average perhaps because they hadn't yet concentrated in flocks at feeders. JUNCOS were in above average numbers in northern N.B., close to average in the south.

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES dropped noticeably in numbers for the first time in a decade, but they still remain well above the recent average. BOREAL CHICKADEES increased to above the average level for recent years. Both RED-BREASTED and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES dropped down to about average numbers. BROWN CREEPERS increased to be above average and GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET stayed low.

Mountain-ash berries were more plentiful in northern N.B. than in the south and this was reflected in the numbers of fruit-eating birds. ROBINS, BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS, and especially CEDAR WAXWINGS were more numerous north than south. Cedars outnumbered Bohemians (normally our main winter waxwing) almost 3 to 1, indicative of the fact that many Bohemians stayed closer to their breeding grounds to feast on a heavy crop of berries there. Higher than usual STARLING numbers in northern N.B. were likely also related to the mountain-ash fruits. Starling numbers were lower than usual at Saint John.

RUFFED GROUSE numbers continue at a high level throughout.

Growth of the MOURNING DOVE population continues in northern N.B. but seems to be levelling off in the south. ROCK DOVES remain at high levels but in the south decreased from the previous year.

This was a high CBC season for NORTHERN HARRIER, no doubt because of the easy feeding in snow-free fields. GOSHAWK numbers were above average, other hawks around normal levels. The good showing of 11 Snowy Owls were at coastal locations from Bathurst to Shediac.

Among gulls, RING-BILLED GULLS were at a high level and GLAUCOUS GULLS low, both at least partly due to the mild winter; the former delayed its departure, the latter stayed mainly north of us. GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS are showing a slow long-term increase in northern N.B.

Grand Manan's 2100 RAZORBILLS is a new provincial record. The numbers of COMMON and RED-THROATED LOONS, and of HORNED and RED-NECKED GREBES were high.

The MALLARD total for these counts was 30% of the number of BLACK DUCKS. As one who views Blacks as special and Mallards as cosmopolitan, I find this alarming. Can I take hope from the fact that Moncton's count of 778 Mallards (that's more than the highest Black Duck count) was less than the 1325 there in 1994?

David Christie, 22 January 1997

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