Begin forwarded message:
> From: Jean Iron <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: September 19, 2012 10:47:15 AM EDT
> To: "Ontbirds" <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: [Ontbirds] WINTER FINCH FORECAST 2012-2013
> WINTER FINCH FORECAST 2012-2013
> The theme this winter is that each finch species will use a different
> strategy to deal with the widespread tree seed crop failure in the
> Northeast. It will be a quiet winter in the eastern North Woods. See
> individual species forecasts for details. Both coniferous and hardwood tree
> seed crops are generally poor from northeastern Ontario extending eastward
> across Quebec to Newfoundland south through the Maritime Provinces, New York
> and New England States. Within the Northeast there are pockets of good
> crops. Cone crops are much better in the Hudson Bay Lowlands and
> northwestern Ontario west to Alberta, Northwest Territories and Yukon. Three
> irruptive non$B!>(Bfinch passerines whose movements are linked to finches are
> also discussed.
> INDIVIDUAL FINCH FORECASTS
> PINE GROSBEAK: A good flight is expected into southern Ontario because the
> mountain$B!>(Bash berry crop is variable in the boreal forest. Many berries are
> hard with low moisture content because of the drought. The European
> mountain-ash and ornamental crabapple crops are poor to fair in southern
> Ontario so these crops won$B!G(Bt last long. Grosbeaks will be attracted to the
> usually abundant buckthorn berries and to bird feeders offering black oil
> sunflower seeds. The Ontario breeding population of this grosbeak is stable.
> PURPLE FINCH: Most Purple Finches will migrate south of Ontario this fall
> because both coniferous and deciduous hardwood seed crops are very low this
> year in the Northeast. Purple Finch numbers dropped significantly in recent
> decades as spruce budworm outbreaks subsided and currently a moderate
> population decline continues in the province.
> RED CROSSBILL: Red Crossbills comprise at least 10 $B!H(Btypes$B!I(B in North
> America. Each type probably represents a separate or newly evolving species.
> Most types are normally impossible to identify in the field without
> recordings of their flight calls. Matt Young of The Cornell Lab of
> Ornithology reports that there is currently a large early irruption of Type
> 3 Red Crossbills (smallest billed type) from the west into eastern North
> America. Recordings can be made with a cell phone and sent to Matt to be
> identified (may6 AT cornell.edu). Every recording adds an important piece to
> the puzzle, especially when accompanied by notes on behaviour and ecology,
> including tree species used for foraging and nesting. Matt emphasizes that
> the conservation of call types depends on understanding their complex
> distributions and ecological requirements.
> WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: With very poor spruce cone crops in the Northeast,
> most White-winged Crossbills will likely stay this winter in the Hudson Bay
> Lowlands, northwestern Ontario and western Canada where spruce cone crops
> are generally very good. They will be virtually absent from traditional
> hotspots such as Algonquin Park where spruce crops are very low. Wandering
> birds may show up throughout the Northeast.
> COMMON REDPOLL: There should be a good southward flight because the white
> birch seed crop is poor to fair across the north. Watch for redpolls on
> birches and in weedy fields and at bird feeders offering nyger (preferred)
> and black oil sunflower seeds. Check flocks for the rare $B!H(BGreater$B!I(B Common
> Redpoll (subspecies rostrata) from the High Arctic. It is reliably
> identified by its larger size, darker and browner colour, longer/thicker
> bill and longer tail in direct comparison to $B!H(BSouthern$B!I(B Common Redpolls
> (nominate flammea subspecies). Note: The notion of a $B!H(Bbiennial
> periodicity$B!I(B that redpolls irrupt south every second winter is not
> supported by records in Atlantic Canada (Erskine and McManus 2003). The
> authors concluded that "irregular abundance but near-annual occurrence" of
> redpolls in the Atlantic Provinces is a better explanation than a two year
> cycle. Similarly redpolls were recorded on 32 of 38 Christmas Bird Counts in
> Algonquin Park (Lat. 45.5 N), Ontario.
> HOARY REDPOLL: Check redpoll flocks for Hoary Redpolls. There are two
> subspecies. Most Hoaries seen in southern Canada and northern United States
> are $B!H(BSouthern$B!I(B Hoary Redpolls (subspecies exilipes). $B!H(BHornemann$B!G(Bs$B!I(B
> Hoary Redpoll (nominate subspecies hornemanni) from the High Arctic was
> previously regarded as a great rarity in southern Canada and the northern
> United States. In recent decades a number have been confirmed by
> photographs. Hornemann$B!G(Bs is most reliably identified by its larger size in
> direct comparison to flammea Common Redpoll or exilipes Hoary Redpoll.
> Caution: White birds loom larger than life among darker birds and size
> illusions are frequent.
> PINE SISKIN: Some siskins currently in the Northeast should move south this
> fall and winter because cone crops are poor. However, siskins are an
> opportunistic nomad wandering east and west continent-wide in search of cone
> crops. Most siskins will probably winter in northwestern Ontario and western
> Canada where cone crops are generally very good. Major southward irruptions
> occur when cone crops fail across most of North America.
> EVENING GROSBEAK: This spectacular grosbeak is ABA$B!G(Bs Bird of the Year in
> 2012. We can expect some at feeders in central Ontario and probably
> elsewhere in the Northeast because coniferous and hardwood tree seed
> supplies are low. Highest breeding densities are found in areas with spruce
> budworm outbreaks. The larvae are eaten by adults and fed to young. Current
> populations are much lower than several decades ago when budworm outbreaks
> were much larger and more widespread.
> THREE IRRUPTIVE PASSERINES: Movements of the following three species are
> often linked to the boreal finches.
> BLUE JAY: Expect a smaller flight than last year along the north shorelines
> of Lakes Ontario and Erie because the red oak acorn crop is very good in
> central Ontario. Beechnut and hazelnut crops were poor to none, but the
> acorn crop may be large enough to keep many jays in the north this winter.
> RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH: A widespread irruption of this nuthatch beginning in
> mid-summer indicated a cone crop failure in the Northeast. Most will leave
> the eastern half of the province for the winter, but some will probably
> remain in northwestern Ontario where cone crops are much better.
> BOHEMIAN WAXWING: Expect a flight this winter because the mountain$B!>(Bash
> berry crop in the boreal forest was affected by drought. Even though some
> areas have large crops, many berries are hard with low moisture content.
> Farther south Bohemians will be attracted to the usually abundant buckthorn
> berries because European mountain$B!>(Bash and ornamental crabapple crops are
> generally low and of poor quality.
> WHERE TO SEE FINCHES: Algonquin Park is a winter adventure about a three
> hour drive north of Toronto, but this will be a very lean finch winter in
> the park. Conifer crops are poor to none. Feeders at the Visitor Centre (km
> 43) should have Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, and redpolls. The Visitor
> Centre and restaurant are open weekends in winter. Arrangements can be made
> to view feeders on weekdays by calling 613$B!>(B637$B!>(B2828. The nearby Spruce Bog
> Trail at km 42.5 and Opeongo Road are good spots for Gray Jays, Boreal
> Chickadees, Spruce Grouse and Black$B!>(Bbacked Woodpeckers. Be sure to get a
> copy of the new $B!H(BBirds of Algonquin Park$B!I(B (2012) by Ron Tozer. It is one
> of the best regional bird books ever published with lots of information
> about winter finches and boreal specialties.
> WINTER FINCH BASICS: A primer about finch facts, seed crops and irruptions.
> Excellent paper on berry crops in Ontario.
> ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I thank staff of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
> designated by an asterisk* and others whose reports allow me to make annual
> forecasts: Dennis Barry (Durham Region), Eleanor Beagan (Prince Edward
> Island), Pascal Cote (Tadoussac Bird Observatory, Quebec), Bruce Di Labio
> (Eastern Ontario and Churchill, Manitoba), Carolle Eady (Dryden), Cameron
> Eckert (Yukon), Marcel Gahbauer (Alberta & Northwest Territories), Michel
> Gosselin (Canadian Museum of Nature), David Govatski (New Hampshire),
> Charity Hendry* (Ontario Tree Seed Facility), Leo Heyens* (Kenora), Tyler
> Hoar (Northern Ontario & Quebec Laurentians), Jean Iron (Hudson Bay, James
> Bay & Northeastern Ontario), Bruce Mactavish (Newfoundland), Brian Naylor*
> (Nipissing), Justin Peter* (Algonquin Park), Genevieve Perreault
> (Regroupement QuebecOiseaux), Fred Pinto* (North Bay), Harvey & Brenda
> Schmidt (Creighton, Saskatchewan), Ron Tozer (Algonquin Park), Declan Troy
> (Alaska), Mike Turner (Haliburton Highlands), John Woodcock (Thunder Cape
> Bird Observatory) and Kirk Zufelt (Sault Ste Marie, Ontario). I especially
> thank Matt Young of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for advice and detailed
> information about seed crops in New York and adjacent states and for
> information about Red Crossbills. Jean Iron proofed the forecast and made
> helpful comments.
> LITERATURE CITED: Erskine, A.J. and R. McManus, Jr. 2003. Supposed
> periodicity of redpoll, Carduelis sp., winter visitations in Atlantic
> Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(4):611-620.
> Ron Pittaway
> Ontario Field Ornithologists
> Minden, Ontario
> 19 September 2012
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