Grey-Bruce Bird Checklist Story

Have you ever wondered just how many species of birds have been recorded in Grey & Bruce Counties? Or how many species breed here? How many species are found here only in the winter? Or only in migration?  Of the 37 species of warblers that have been recorded in the two Counties, how many could you find nesting here?  You don’t have to search the net or refer to numerous field guides for the answers to these questions. This information can be found in the new Checklist of the Birds of Grey & Bruce.  (You can preview it in the Checklists section (under Member Info) on this website.

In 2012, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) Executive appointed Dave Fidler to re-form a Grey-Bruce Bird Records Committee, to take on the task of updating the 1998 Checklist of the Birds of Grey-Bruce. The Committee was established with reps from the OSFN (Dave Fidler – Chair, Peter Middleton, Lynne Richardson), the Huron Fringe Field Naturalists (James Turland) and the Saugeen Field Naturalists (Jerry Asling).

In April 2013 the Committee set about collecting records of sightings of new species seen since the publication of the 1998 checklist.  The Committee followed documentation standards and criteria consistent with that established by the Ontario Bird Records Committee.

It was interesting to note changes in record reports since the previous checklist. For records up to 1998, detailed written reports of bird sightings were the main method of documentation, with few photographs.  Today, reports are based primarily on photographs, with thoroughly written documentation being less of a priority. The widespread availability of digital cameras has made photo records of sightings much easier to obtain.  However, information such as date, time, location, observer’s names & addresses, weather, behavior and vocalization remain vital to proper documentation and acceptance of reports and all this is not provided by photos alone.

Another change is the speed with which a new or rare bird is reported. In the past the word spread slowly through the landline phone system. Now, cellphones, email, texting, on-line bird posting sites such as Ontbirds & eBird and various websites have made new bird sightings instantly reportable.

Such electronic technology, along with more active birders in the field, more organized birding group and club excursions and the establishment of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory monitoring and banding program (2002) has all contributed to a good range of new records for the two Counties.

However, for a checklist to be updated there remains a need for collection, vetting and consolidation of the records.  The Committee devoted monthly meetings to this task along with dealing with changes in the taxonomic order of birds, the splitting of species, determining the seasonal occurrence status of each bird species, documenting new breeding species and organizing checklist layout, design, costs and printing.

In total 21 species have been added, bringing the total list of birds recorded in Grey-Bruce to 340 species:

  1. Ross’s Goose
  2. Cackling Goose
  3. Trumpeter Swan
  4. Pacific Loon
  5. Black Vulture
  6. Swainson’s Hawk
  7. Black-legged Kittiwake
  8. Black-headed Gull
  9. Long-tailed Jaeger
  10. Parasitic Jaeger
  11. White-winged Dove
  12. Acadian Flycatcher
  13. Say’s Phoebe
  14. Sage Thrasher
  15. Worm-eating Warbler
  16. Hermit Warbler
  17. Western Tanager
  18. Blue Grosbeak
  19. Black-headed Grosbeak
  20. Painted Bunting
  21. Hooded Oriole

One of these species (Cackling Goose) had been seen in Grey-Bruce in past years but was only established as a separate species in 2004.  Other changes to the checklist include two new breeding species (Trumpeter Swan, Red-bellied Woodpecker) and delisting 14 species from their previous ‘Rare’ status (no more than five records in the previous ten years) due to an increase in documented sightings over the past 10 years (Greater White-fronted Goose, Harlequin Duck, American White Pelican, Yellow Rail,  Piping Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Northern Hawk Owl, Great Gray Owl,  Boreal Owl, Tufted Titmouse, Connecticut Warbler, Dickcissel, Hoary Redpoll).

New to the 2013 checklist is the inclusion of the “Seasonal Status” (Summer, Winter, Migrant, Permanent) of each species, to supplement the previous status’ of Rare and Accidental.  This information can be particularly helpful to beginning birders and to birders from outside the area. You’ll also note that no status is given for a number of species. This is because any sightings of these species will be from captive collections (Bobwhite, Ring-necked Pheasant), the birds have been extirpated from Grey-Bruce (Gray Partridge, Spruce Grouse) or the bird is extinct (Passenger Pigeon).

Finally, among the records considered, Black-billed Magpie was not accepted due to information which indicated the birds were escapees, the three Whooping Crane which wandered off-course in 2008 were from a captive-breed population and thus not countable, and a frigatebird photographed distantly near Tobermory was unidentifiable as to species and thus could not be included.

The Committee will continue to meet annually to review new records and keep the checklist up to date. Reporting forms can be obtained from and submitted to the OSFN website (www.osfn.ca) or to a member of the Checklist Committee. The Committee is particularly interested in reports on birds not listed on the new checklist, or any species noted as V or A (Vagrant/Rare or Accidental).  And remember – records are best if documented as soon as possible after the sighting occurrence!

The checklist is available from the three Naturalist Clubs at their monthly meetings for a “loony”, and will be available at the Huron Fringe Birding Festival.

All the new technology and field guides cannot replace the usefulness of an area checklist.  It remains an essential reference item to carry whenever you’re out birding. Don’t leave home without one!

 

 

 

 

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