Friday, 23 March 2018

March 23 2018


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Edited by: Nelson Poirier
Transcript by: Louise Nichols
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** A last reminder for the Nature Moncton workshop on the Swallow Box Project with boxes all made by Fred Richards and ready for landlords to take.  Roger Leblanc will give a presentation on TREE SWALLOWS [Hirondelle bicolore] and some information will be given out on nest box parasite control that will be applicable to all man-made nest boxes.  Everyone is welcome, whether with nest boxes reserved or not as there will be lots of helpful information to make nest boxes get their most use.  It will take place at the Tankville School from 1:00 to 4:00 on Saturday with all details on the website under upcoming events.

** Audrey  Goguen had some AMERICAN ROBINS [Merle d'Amérique] drop by her Northview Drive crabapple tree approximately a week ago.  They arrived back on Thursday in noticeably greater numbers to the same tree, possibly aware that it would be a good morning to fill up before the storm.

** Dave Christie comments that one of the three WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS [Bruant à gorge blanche] that has overwintered with him started singing on Wednesday, hearing it several times, definitely tuning-up editions, but a real start to spring song.  Several PURPLE FINCH [Roselin pourpré] were about as well and some song from them which is expected from that species in March.  When Dave put seed out in protected areas at the height of the storm, up to 30 DARK-EYED JUNCOS [Junco ardoisé] and 10 AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS [Bruant hudsonien] were prompt to accept the offerings.

** The Moncton Christmas Bird Count compilation and comments that were mentioned on yesterday’s edition is added below after a few technical challenges stopped it yesterday.  This excellent account was prepared by Moncton Christmas Bird Count co-ordinator Roger Leblanc.

2017 Nature Moncton CBC
The 57th Nature Moncton CBC was held on Saturday December 16 last. First thegeneral conditions and numbers: Temperatures were a bit on the chilly side hovering between -11°C and -7°C. Fortunately winds were moderate around 5 km from the NW. The sky was covered in the morning with no precipitation but things cleared up later in the day. Snow cover was at a minimum (around 5 cm) permitting easy access to most spots but with the alternating thaws and cold conditions earlier in December a lot of back roads were iced up which hampered walking and general traveling. Standing water and most running streams were frozen so there were fewer places where water birds could be looked for.  Finally the lack of snow cover or notable storm activity in early December kept the flocking behavior and the feeder counts lower than we would have whished. Still, all in all we had “not to bad” winter weather to be out and about the Moncton circle looking for birds. 25 of us (a bit under average) participated in the field while 13 more (low) counted at feeders. Again this year, the feeder watch was a very important component of our effort adding 6 species (Bohemian Waxwing, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Ruffed Grouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal) to the count. A big THANK YOU is in order for Susan on this front, but help would be needed for next year. In total with field and feeders combined we managed to tally 52 species on count day (see list below) and 3 more were added for count period (3 days before or after count day). In all, that represented 10,443 individual birds and both numbers would be a bit under average when compared to the earlier 56 years of the Moncton CBC. The snowless weather in the weeks before and so lack of snow on the ground and in trees would in turn made for good access to food for birds and consequently limited their concentration that happens in harsher weather in particular at feeders. But on the positive side (there is always one) it helped some “gooood” species survive and stay here long enough to be counted. The highlights species wise were a female Common Eider floating up the Petitcodiac on the tide, between pieces of ice. This was only the second time that specie was seen on our CBC. Dickcissel and Field Sparrow made the list only for the third time and not one but two Peregrine Falcons made it for the fifth time. So they will join others on the general bird list next year. Other highlights on the numbers front were Bald Eagles who continued their ascending trend to reach a record breaking 102 individuals this year.  The same was true for Canada Geese and Mallards respectively at 667 and 2062. Gulls in general continued their gradual decline (or stabilization) of recent years. For instance, Herrings at 1393 and Great Black-backed at 464 were quite low. Some of this could be weather related but also changing food accessibility having to do with the opening of the flow of the river as well as better waste management could be at play. As for owls it was nice to add Short-eared at least for count period. Same for Horned Lark for which this was only a 8th showing on CBC day. In the missing in action column, Boreal Chickadee has sadly not been seen for 7 years now and Bohemian Waxwings were few and far between with just one flock of 80 reported. Strangely, in a winter were they seem to be quite present no Cedar Waxwings could be found. The same was true for warblers and blackbirds. After a couple of super years for sparrows things got back to normal this year. Still at 53 it was a good year for Dark-eyed Junco and a Field Sparrow, at feeders, saved the day for that group. We also lucked out for the species count with single showings of Pine Siskin and Common Redpoll at feeders. We have been in very low numbers for that last species for 3 years now so hopefully we will be in for a “big” redpoll year soon. 
So that was the count for 2017. As can be expected, some surprises, several interesting statistics, all around good birding and lots of fun.  Thanks to all that participated in the field or at feeders and hope to see you all again next year.

Birds seen on the Nature Moncton  57th  CBC
CBC Saturday December 16th 2017

Birds seen count day
Canada Goose                                   667
American Black Duck                      70
Mallard                                 2062
Common Eider                  1
Common Merganser                      3
Ring-necked Pheasant   68
Ruffed Grouse                                  3
Bald Eagle                                            102
Northern Harrier                              1
Sharp-shinned Hawk                      2
Northern Goshawk                         1
Red-tailed Hawk                               4
Peregrine Falcon                              2
Ring-billed Gull                  5
Herring Gull                                        1393
Iceland Gull                                        228
Glaucous Gull                                    4
Great Black-backed Gull                464
Rock Pigeon                                       676
Mourning Dove                                196
Downy Woodpecker                      29
Hairy Woodpecker                          19
Pileated Woodpecker                    3
Gray Jay                                               7
Blue Jay                                                103
American Crow                 1278
Common Raven                                47
Horned Lark                                       2
Black-capped Chickadee               479
Red-breasted Nuthatch                94
White-breasted Nuthatch            1
Brown Creeper                 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet              15
American Robin                                39
Northern Mockingbird   1
European Starling                            1814
Bohemian Waxwing                        80
American Tree Sparrow                44
Field Sparrow                                    1
Song Sparrow                                    7
White-throated Sparrow              1
Dark-eyed Junco                              53
Snow Bunting                                    10
Northern Cardinal                   1
Dickcissel                                1
Purple Finch                                       11
House Finch                                       8
White-winged Crossbill 3
Common Redpoll                             1
Pine Siskin                                           1
American Goldfinch                        304
House Sparrow                 30
TOTAL # OF SPEICES                        52
TOTAL # OF BIRDS                            10440

Birds seen on count week
Cooper’s Hawk                 1
Short-eared Owl                              1
Northern Flicker                               1
** Nature New Brunswick in co-operation with volunteers has made up four different presentations to be used for naturalist meetings or wherever they can be used as educational tools.  I was able to attend one of the four that deals with “Migration” given at the Salisbury Naturalist Club meeting on Wednesday night and so capably delivered by Jim Wilson.  It is a very well-prepared presentation, and Jim Wilson’s broad birding experience presented with his commentary was excellent.  This was the first time this one was given publically.  It was so well done, delivering excellent interesting information on a very complex subject.  I would strongly suggest that as these presentations work their way across the province, not to miss them.

** A branch of LILAC [Lilas] put in a vase of water on Feb. 19th is now starting to burst into flower – a very pleasant bit of spring to see happily blooming inside during the snow storm on March 22nd.

** This week’s Easter edition of the Sky-at-a-Glance is added to this edition, courtesy of sky-guru Curt Nason.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, March 24 - March 31

This being the week leading up to Easter, let us look for signs of it in
the night sky. Lambs have long been associated with spring and Easter,
so we can start with Aries the Ram in the west. For many, the symbol of
Easter is Peter Cottontail, the Easter Bunny. When darkness sets in we
can see Lepus the Hare below the feet of Orion. I see the constellation
as three vertical pairs of stars, with the brightest pair in the middle
and the widest to the right. With a reasonably dark sky you can see the
bunny ears between the widest pair and Orion’s brightest star, Rigel.

In Germanic mythology, Ostara, the goddess of spring, found a wounded
bird and changed it into a hare so that it could survive. This animal
was allowed to run as fast as it could fly and retained the ability to
lay eggs, which it did in spring to honour its rescuer. The Saxon name
for the goddess was Eostre.

Sunrise services are a popular way to celebrate Easter, and that is a
good time to look for religious Easter symbols in the sky if you are an
hour or two early. The Northern Cross, the most recognizable part of
Cygnus the Swan, is high in the east among the procession of
constellations. Look for semicircular Corona Borealis to the southwest,
one third of the way from the bright star Arcturus toward equally bright
Vega. Can you picture this as a cave with an open door? It does play the
role of a cave in a local aboriginal legend in which the bowl of the Big
Dipper is a bear pursued by seven hunters.

I think the best symbol is seen on the Moon when it is full or nearly
so. When it rises in spring, look for the dark bunny ears to the upper
right. With them identified, it isn’t difficult to picture Peter
Cottontail clutching a giant egg.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:14 am and sunset will occur at
7:37 pm, giving 12 hours, 23 minutes of daylight (7:19 am and 7:41 pm in
Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:01 am and set at 7:46
pm, giving 12 hours, 45 minutes of daylight (7:06 am and 7:50 pm in
Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter during Earth Hour on March 24, a great time
to share views of our natural night light. The Mi’kmaq Maple Sugar full
Moon occurs next Saturday, giving us Easter on the following day as it
is the first full Moon of spring. Mercury spends the week plummeting
sunward in the west, on its way to inferior conjunction on April 1.
Venus moves slowly away from the Sun, revealing itself soon after
sunset. Mars is closing in on Saturn, which is above the globular
cluster M22 to the left of the Sagittarius Teapot lid. Jupiter dominates
the morning sky in the southwest.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at

Nelson Poirier,
Nature Moncton