Thursday, January 8, 2015

Mactaquac Christmas Bird Count

Common Redpoll
The Mactaquac Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on January 1.  Eleven dedicated volunteer birders spent the day travelling the highways, walking the fields, woods, and roads in their sectors and recorded the species and numbers of birds found.  

CBCs are a huge contribution to citizen science which is conducted every year between the dates of 14 December and 5 January.  We have been doing it in the Fredericton area for over 50 years and the Mactaquac count, in particular, for over 15 years.  Please see a previous post on this blog on Dec. 22 for more information on how CBCs are conducted.  

Following are the results of the 2014 Mactaquac CBC.

The following graph shows how this year's results compare to other years.

This shows that for this year's count we saw an above average number of species but a below average total number of birds.  It also shows that the total number of birds has been declining over the period that these data have been taken and that the number of species has remained relatively stable.

Why was the total number of birds low this year?  We do not know for certain but we can speculate.  It was a very open winter at the time of the count.  There was very little snow and quite a lot of open water.  The water below the dam and at the fish hatchery was open.  And, so were some streams and wet, muddy areas.  There was an average cone crop and there was a below average amount of natural fruit present.  This would disperse the birds.  Fewer birds were at feeders and concentrated around other food sources and small open water holes.  This would decrease the numbers of birds seen.  The stable number of species might mean that the birds are here but we just did not see some of them.

However, the data might also show that our results are significant and that bird numbers are actually declining.  That is the value of Christmas Bird Counts!  The data from all over North America will be compiled and checked by the experts and they will be able to study changes in our bird populations.

Thanks to all who participated in this count and to the many people along our routes who allowed us to come on their properties to count birds.  Thanks also for tolerating our frequent stops along the roads.

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