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Christmas Bird Count on the Islands


 Islands Audubon Christmas Bird Count

By Lisa Brohl

The annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held on the Lake Erie Islands on Sunday, December 18, 2016. The lake was starting to freeze and open water was restricted to the east side and pockets in the Bay and at the South Bass Island State Park.  The winds were brisk from the northwest with temperatures at -3 C in the morning. It was a relatively quiet day in the woods.  Waterfowl numbers were down as the lake was freezing. We were unable to visit Green Island due to ice on the lake.

Highlights for the South Bass count were 243 tundra swans with most found at Chapman’s Point, as well as a variety of waterfowl including common goldeneye, bufflehead, mallard, black ducks, redheads, canvasback, ring-necked ducks, gadwall, hooded mergansers, red-breasted mergansers, and ruddy ducks. A northern pintail was seen on Friday at the Scheeff East Point Preserve.  A common loon was found by Sharon Gray and Richard Gump in the last open water at the South Bass Island State Park. Carmen Trisler’s feeder yielded a common redpoll, purple finch, and winter wren.

The calm evening of the count was great for listening for owls-8 great horned and one eastern screech owl were counted this year on South Bass. Raptors included 6 bald eagles, 4 red-tailed hawks, sharp-shinned, Cooper’s hawks, and a northern harrier. One of the red-tailed hawks was seen perched on the sign at the Massie Cliffside Preserve with an injured wing-but not injured enough for it to be caught to take to rehab-it flew into the woods!

The most numerous bird counted were scaup at 1206 (126 which identified as lesser scaup) followed by European starlings at 773. Large numbers of starlings, brown-headed cowbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and common grackles were seen at island feeders the day after the count. A lone great blue heron and belted kingfisher were seen two days after the count by Bob Glauser, Elizabeh Heinemenan, and Susan Harrington.

On South Bass Island, Lisa Brohl, Elizabeth Heineman, and Karen Wilhelm, Sharon Gray and Richard Gump surveyed the shoreline by car and the woods on foot. Sixteen people watched their feeders for at least a portion of the day Jean Hilt, Ruth Scarpelli, Carmen Trisler, Mary Ann McCann, Brian and Sandy Hovey, Barb Chrysler, Susan Harrington, Bob Glauser,  Heidi Ladd, Walt Duff, Kit Knaser, Gene and Pam Zajac, Russ Brohl, John Ladd, and Michelle Heineman, .

On Middle Bass Island, Nancy Welter and Tedi Pertner surveyed the island. They were joined at the Middle Bass Island State Park by John LInhart and Becky Schmaltz. They tallied 34 species with Canada Goose being the most numerous bird counted at 196 as well as the resident Bald Eagles.

On North Bass, Bud and Ruth Stonerook surveyed the island. Joe Dopps watched from his property and drove the island too. We really appreciate the efforts of these hardy North Bass residents to participate in the count this year!

Counters were also busy on Kelleys Island and Pelee Island that day. The total number of species found on all the islands was 99 with count week birds.

          On Pelee, participant Graeme Gibson reported highlights of 83 sandhill cranes and a count week snowy owl! Other participants at Pelee were Debbie and Fred Billard, Kim Gardner, Sumiko Onishi, Ron Tiessen, Rob Tymstra, Paul Carter, Lori Clancy, Brian and Lisa Kipp, Matt and Alyssa Staples, Karen Foster, and Kirk Gardner.

On Kelleys Islands John Pogacnik, Tom Bartlett, Sandi Tkach, and other feeder watchers tallied great numbers with snow geese, a red-throated loon,  hairy woodpeckers, high numbers of American pipits and a Lapland longspur.      

   Thanks to John Pogacnik for his work as the Lake Erie Count Circle Compiler and to Tom Bartlett for helping us organize.

Thanks for everyone’s help with the count-it is great to participate in such a great citizen science effort! And a fun day watching the winter come in!


Islands 2016 (1)

2016 (1)

Karen Wilhelm and Elizabeth Heineman at the Massie Cliffside Preserve

View from South Bass Island Lighthouse Grounds on Count Day photo by Lisa Brohl

Sunset from South Bass Island LIghthouse Grounds on Count Day photo by Lisa Brohl

Tree Sparrow
photo by Elizabeth Heineman

Sandhill Cranes on Pelee Islands by Sumiko Onishi

FIsh Point, Pelee Island on Count Day photo by Graeme Gibson

Northern Cardinal at Pelee Island photo by Sumiko Onishi


Chapman’s Point Count Day photo by Elizabeth Heineman


Red-tailed Hawk at the Massie Cliffside Preserve photo by Elizabeth Heineman


Red-tailed Hawk photo by Elizabeth Heineman 

Common Loon off the South Bass Island State Park photo by Elizabeth Heineman

Ring-necked Ducks photo by Elizabeth Heineman

Swans photo by Elizabeth Heineman

Horned Grebe photo by Elizabeth Heineman

Ruddy Duck photo by Elizabeth Heineman

Redhead Ducks photo by Elizabeth Heineman

More Redhead Ducks with Common Goldeneye at top photo by Elizabeth Heineman

Hooded Merganser photo by Elizabeth Heineman