> From: Jean Iron <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: September 18, 2008 12:52:11 PM EDT (CA)
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [Ontbirds]Winter Finch Forecast 2008-2009
> GENERAL FORECAST
> This winter's theme is where will crossbills go and will they
> irrupt south? Both species wandered widely this summer. Cone crops
> are poor in the Atlantic Provinces and fair to moderate in Western
> Canada. In Ontario, spruce crops are fair to good west and east of
> Lake Superior and in central Ontario such as Algonquin Park, but
> cone abundance diminishes rapidly northwards into the boreal
> forest. White pine (Ontario's provincial tree) has heavy cone crops
> in most areas. The hemlock crop is poor in central Ontario. The
> white birch crop is fair to good west and east of Lake Superior to
> Lake Ontario, but poor in the boreal forest. The mountain-ash
> (rowan berry) crop is excellent in Ontario and Western Canada, but
> poor in the Atlantic Provinces. Individual finch forecasts below
> apply mainly to Ontario, but adjacent provinces and states may find
> the forecast of interest. I also comment on three irruptive
> passerines and two boreal forest raptors.
> INDIVIDUAL FINCH FORECASTS
> Pine Grosbeak: A mountain-ash berry specialist in winter, Pine
> Grosbeaks will stay north of most birders this winter because
> mountain-ash berries are abundant in northern Ontario. A few
> normally get south to Algonquin Park, but they are unlikely farther
> Purple Finch: This finch stays in the north only when most tree
> species have heavy seed crops. This fall most Purple Finches will
> migrate south out of the province because overall tree seed crops
> are too low. A very few may winter in southern Ontario.
> Red Crossbill: This crossbill comprises nine ecotypes in North
> America; each has cone(s) preferences related to bill size and
> shape. The Types are difficult to identify in the field. Types 2
> and 3 and probably 4 occur in Ontario. The white pine Type 2 is
> apparently the most frequently encountered Red Crossbill in the
> province (Simard 2007 in Atlas of Breeding Birds of Ontario). Since
> white pine has abundant crops in most areas, expect Type 2s to be
> widespread in small numbers. Hemlock Type 3 (subspecies sitkensis
> of AOU Check-list 1957) prefers the small cones of hemlock and
> white spruce when bumper in Ontario. Type 3s should be absent from
> the province this winter because the hemlock crop is poor and the
> white spruce crop is average. Other Types are possible this winter
> given the bumper white pine cone crop and good crop on red pine.
> The Red Crossbill complex very much needs further study.
> White-winged Crossbill: This crossbill wandered widely this past
> summer searching for extensive spruce cone crops. Reports came from
> Alaska, Yukon, Hudson Bay Lowlands, Ontario, Quebec and many
> northern states such as Michigan and New York. Most kept moving but
> some stopped and their singing suggested nesting but spruce cone
> crops are generally not large enough in most areas to support major
> nestings. The White-winged Crossbill specializes on the small soft
> cones of black and white spruces and hemlock when bumper in
> Ontario. This winter they should be widespread in small numbers in
> traditional areas such as Algonquin Park. However, spruce cone
> crops are generally low in most of Canada and as seed supplies are
> exhausted this fall and winter so a moderate southward irruption is
> probable, perhaps extending south into the central United States.
> Watch for them on ornamental spruces and European larch.
> Common and Hoary Redpolls: The Common Redpoll is a white birch seed
> specialist in the boreal forest in winter. White birch crops are
> poor in the northern two-thirds of the boreal forest, but seed
> abundance increases southward. In central Ontario, such as
> Algonquin Park, crops on white and yellow birches range from fair
> to good. It is uncertain whether the birch crop is large enough to
> stop the southward movement in central Ontario about latitude 45
> degrees. Some redpolls, including a few Hoarys, may get south to
> Lake Ontario if birch seed supplies run low.
> Pine Siskin: A conifer seed specialist in winter, most siskins
> should leave the province this fall because the spruce cone crop is
> poor in the boreal forest. It is uncertain whether the huge white
> pine seed crop will keep some siskins in central and northern
> Ontario this winter.
> Evening Grosbeak: A conifer and hardwood seed generalist in winter,
> Evening Grosbeaks should make a small southward movement this
> winter because food supplies are probably sufficient in the north.
> Older birders remember the 1970s when the Evening Grosbeak was a
> common feeder bird. Their memory is based on the greatly inflated
> numbers 30 years ago in Eastern Canada due to huge outbreaks of
> spruce budworm. The last Algonquin Christmas Bird Count to have
> high numbers of Evening Grosbeaks was in 1984 with 1474
> individuals, which was the North American CBC record that year. A
> significant decline in grosbeak numbers began in the mid-1980s
> because the size of annual budworm outbreaks decreased. Ontario's
> breeding population is currently probably stable, subject to
> periodic fluctuations in spruce budworm (Hoar 2007 in Atlas of
> Breeding Birds of Ontario).
> THREE IRRUPTIVE PASSERINES
> Red-breasted Nuthatch: Movements of this nuthatch are linked to
> cone crop abundance, particularly spruce, white pine and balsam fir
> in Ontario. Good numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches should winter
> in Ontario this year feeding on the bumper white pine seed crop and
> good spruce/fir crops in many areas such as Algonquin Park.
> Bohemian Waxwing: Like the Pine Grosbeak, this waxwing is a
> mountain-ash berry specialist in winter. Mountain-ash crops are
> excellent across northern Ontario (bumper around Lake Superior) so
> very few Bohemians will wander out of the boreal forest this
> winter. Some may get south into traditional wintering areas of
> central Ontario such as Orillia, Peterborough and Ottawa where
> European mountain-ash berries are in good supply.
> Blue Jay: Good numbers of jays will winter in central Ontario
> because the red oak acorn crop is good and beechnut crop is fair in
> central Ontario. Many other fruits and berries are abundant.
> Therefore this fall's flight should be average or smaller along the
> shorelines of Lakes Ontario and Erie.
> BOREAL RAPTORS
> Northern Goshawk: A small flight is possible this fall because high
> snowshoe hare populations have declined in much of northern
> Ontario. However, grouse numbers (Ruffed, Spruce, Sharp-tailed) are
> generally good so they may buffer the decline in hares.
> Boreal Owl: Small mammal populations have crashed across northern
> and central Ontario. In Quebec, Pascal Cote of Observatoire
> d'oiseaux de Tadoussac expects a flight of Boreal Owls this fall
> and winter following their 4 year cycle linked to red-backed voles.
> Southern Ontario may get Boreal Owls and other northern forest owls
> this winter.
> WHERE TO SEE FINCHES: A winter trip to Algonquin Park is a birding
> adventure. The park is a mix of boreal and hardwood habitats only a
> three hour drive north of Toronto. Kilometre distances are marked
> from the west entrance. Watch carefully for crossbills and other
> finches in early morning eating road salt and sand. Two excellent
> birding spots are the Spruce Bog Trail at km 42.5 and the gate area
> on the Opeongo Road about 4 km north from km 46 on the highway.
> Watch and listen for finches, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Spruce
> Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker. The Visitor Centre and
> restaurant at km 43 are open only on weekends in winter. An
> observation deck overlooks a spectacular bog and black spruce
> forest. The feeders attract Evening Grosbeak, Pine Grosbeak, Common
> Redpoll and other finches depending on the winter. Gray Jays
> frequent the suet feeder and sometimes a pine marten or fisher goes
> to the suet. Eastern Canadian Wolves (Canis lycaon) are seen
> occasionally from the observation deck feeding on road-killed moose
> put out by park staff. Arrangements can be made to view feeders on
> weekdays. For information call the Visitor Centre at 613-637-2828.
> ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I thank staff of the Ontario Ministry of Natural
> Resources (OMNR) and birders whose reports allow me to make annual
> forecasts: Dennis Barry (Durham Region), Ken Corston (OMNR
> Moosonee), Pascal Cote (Tadoussac, Quebec), Shirley Davidson (OMNR
> Minden), Bruce Di Labio (Ottawa to Moosonee), Carrolle Eady
> (Dryden), Cameron Eckert (Yukon), Bruce Falls (Brodie Club,
> Toronto), Brian Fox (OMNR), Marcel Gahbauer (Alberta), Michel
> Gosselin (Canadian Museum of Nature), Skye Haas (Michigan), Charity
> Hendry (Ontario Tree Seed Plant), Leo Heyens (OMNR Kenora), Tyler
> Hoar (Laurentians and Northeastern Quebec), Peter Hynard
> (Haliburton County), Jean Iron (Northeastern Ontario/James Bay),
> Christine Kerrigan and Peter Nevin (Parry Sound District), Richard
> Pope (Lake Superior), Bruce Mactavish (Newfoundland), Erwin
> Meissner (West Sudbury District), Scott McPherson (OMNR), Brian
> Naylor (OMNR North Bay), Larry Neily (Ottawa), Stephen O'Donnell
> (Parry Sound District), Fred Pinto (OMNR), Betsy Potter (Wilson,
> New York), Gord Ross (OMNR Moosonee), Rick Salmon (OMNR Nipigon),
> Don Sutherland (OMNR), Eve Ticknor (Ottawa), Ron Tozer (Algonquin
> Park), Declan Troy (Alaska), Mike Turner (OMNR Minden), Stan
> Vasiliauskas (OMNR), Mike Walsh (OMNR Muskoka/Parry Sound), Ben
> Walters (Northeastern Ontario), Alan Wormington (Point Pelee), Matt
> Young whose posts on New York State listservs were informative, and
> Kirk Zufelt (Sault Ste Marie). I thank Ron Tozer for ongoing
> discussions on winter finches and Jean Iron for proofing the forecast.
> PREVIOUS FINCH FORECASTS archived at Larry Neily's website.
> The recently published ATLAS OF BREEDING BIRDS OF ONTARIO 2007 has
> detailed peer-reviewed information and maps on boreal winter
> finches. I highly recommend it.
> Ron Pittaway
> Minden and Toronto ON
> 18 September 2008
> ONTBIRDS is presented by the Ontario Field Ornithologists - the
> provincial birding organization.
> Send bird reports to ONTBIRDS mailing list [log in to unmask]
> For instructions to join or leave ONTBIRDS visit http://www.ofo.ca/
> ONTBIRDS Guidelines may be viewed at http://www.ofo.ca/information/
Coordinator OFNC Falcon Watch
38-9 Gillespie Cres
Ottawa, Ontario K1V 9T5
"All nature is but art, unknown to thee"