Christmas Bird Counts are much more than numbers

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Added: Fri, 01/16/2015 - 1:08pm
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At the end of the day when the final tallies are added up, Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) may seem to be simply a numbers game:  how many birds, how many species. However, collecting data by field teams also involves learning, sharing and, sometimes, very exciting moments.
For Mo Laidlaw, co-organizer of the Quyon-Shawville Christmas Bird Count, held on December 19, the big prize was her first sighting of a Golden Eagle. Her teammate was Jon Ruddy, a young birding enthusiast from Ottawa who had videoed the eagle on an outing earlier in
the month.
Laidlaw recounts the moment: “We were driving along the Steele Line, when Jon saw “a blob” on a dead tree; it was silhouetted against the sky at the top of the escarpment. “It's an eagle!” he said. We stopped and, through our binoculars a large bird was visible.
Out came the tripod and scope. “Definitely a golden
eagle; see the gold patch on the back of the neck,”
confirmed Jon,” she said.
Laidlaw also organizes the Quebec side of the Dunrobin-Breckenridge bird count, held on January 3. She was joined at her home by one of the field teams at lunchtime. Outside the house, they noted a Cooper's Hawk, lunching on a small bird it  had caught. The only
disappointment for the birders was that the snow and distance made a photo impossible.
Checking out “blobs” in trees and fields is an important part of birdwatching. Most of the time it is
something other than a bird, but you keep looking!
For Jennifer Haughton, Theresa Fowler and Deborah Powell, who teamed up for the Quyon-Shawville count, the blob in the field on the Twelfth Line of Bristol turned out to be a Bald Eagle. With the aid of a tripod and scope they were able to spot 3 other Bald Eagles perched in trees nearby. “Bald Eagles aren’t
entirely uncommon in our area,” said Powell, “but you don't see them every day.  Being in the right place at the right time to spot 4 at once is pretty exciting.”
Another highlight for the team came when they were checking out the feeders at Fowler's home on
the Sixth Line of Bristol. “We were just about to leave after counting the usual birds when suddenly a flock of Bohemian Waxwings arrived! They are lovely birds plus it was the first time the species had shown up in the 4 years of the Quyon-Shawville count,” added Powell
Vince Agnesi, from Sheenboro, covered a part of Allumette Island during the Pembroke area count on December 20. His
special moment was
spotting a Brown Thrasher. “It’s only the second
time in 37 years that one has been reported during this CBC,” said Agnesi.
He also had his first view
of a Northern Goshawk.
Agnesi also took part in the Calumet Island area count where he and
teammate Gordon Bruce tallied 15 species while
covering the northern
sector of the island.
“I enjoy the Christmas Bird Count because it gives me an opportunity to go birding with others and explore new territory and habitat,” noted Agnesi, who enjoys birding in
general because it gets him out to explore nature, not just birds.