Sunday, December 15, 2013

Oak Hammock Marsh Christmas Bird Count

On Saturday the 14th I went to a Christmas Bird Count at Oak Hammock Marsh. Oak Hammock Marsh is a 36 km² Wildlife Management Area and birding hotspot home to 300 species of birds. Since Oak Hammock Marsh is nearly 40 minutes away from where we live, we woke early and met at 7:45 AM at the Marsh Interpretive Centre. We were divided into groups, me, my dad, my twin brother and Christian Artuso were in one group. We had to cover different zones that we were assigned. We had zone ten to do.
I circled Oak Hammock Marsh to show how wide the circle of zones is. Our zone is 10.
ebird checklists:
Bunns Road near Red River and area, Selkirk Area County, Manitoba, CA
Hwy 9 just north of Lockport, Selkirk Area County, Manitoba, CA
Clarke and Mowatt Roads area, Selkirk Area County, Manitoba, CA
Hwy 44 & Rockhaven Rd in 14PA55, Selkirk Area County, Manitoba, CA
Birds Hill Rd, Hay Rd, Henderson Hwy, Selkirk Area County, Manitoba, C

We set out at about 8:00. The count really wasn't just at Oak Hammock Marsh, actually the edge of the circle of zones is over 20 km away from the marsh.We used the map and drove around our zone, lots of the time looking for bird feeders to count birds. There were lots of chickadees and by the end we counted 85 of them.
Chickadees at one of the feeders we watched
We drove around finding bird feeders or every once in a while stopping and listening. We mistook a white round antenna thing for a Snowy Owl until my brother took a picture and zoomed way in on it. We walked down a railway track for a couple minutes but that didn't really produce anything so we went back to the car.
We found a really good place that we counted 4 Hairy Woodpeckers, 4 Blue Jays, numerous chickadees, a Downy Woodpecker and even 2 Dark-eyed Juncos, which was a bit of a treat. We heard a Evening Grosbeak call once, I had never seen or heard one before, a new one on my life list.
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker

We also found some sapsucker wells at the same spot.
A sapsucker must have worked hard on so many sap wells
We saw 33 Sharp-tailed Grouse, the record of the most on any Oak Hammock Marsh Christmas bird counts. Sharp-tailed Grouse was also a new one for me.
Sharp-tailed Grouse
There was a single Snow Bunting that we saw flying over. After we covered our zone we headed back for a hot lunch at the Oak Hammock Interpretive Centre which started at 11:30. We were in zone 9 driving back to the centre when Christian suddenly called out to stop the car. We hopped out and he pointed to the owl sitting into a tall evergreen tree. It was a Northern Hawk Owl.
Northern Hawk Owl preening
 These owls aren't very common here so it was quite the find. Me and my brother got lots of pictures. After watching it for a bit we decided to go back.
It eyed us cautiously
Christian said that Northern Hawk Owls were fairly friendly and wouldn't too easily fly away from us.
It didn't take much notice of us
There were prizes for the group with the most birds seen, the most species seen, and the best bird. We won with the most species seen totaling 13, we each got a Oak Hammock Marsh water bottle. Another group won with the most birds seen, over 1000 while we only got 165 (they saw a flock of Snow Buntings). Everyone voted on the best bird, ours we had as Evening Grosbeak because we never saw the Northern Hawk Owl in our zone. It was close between our Evening Grosbeak, a Red-winged Blackbird and a Northern Shrike. In the end we were tied with the Red-winged Blackbird. But both of us had already won prizes so we passed the prize onto it on to the Northern Shrike team. On our way home we checked if the Northern Hawk Owl was still there but it wasn't. When we were gone my family saw a Pileated Woodpecker as you read in the previous post.
I had a very fun time and now have a few more birds on my life list, and saw a Northern Hawk Owl!
Hands down, the best bird was this wonderful Northern Hawk Owl! 


  1. Thanks Josiah to you and your brother and dad for doing your part to make this count such a success!

  2. Congratulations Josiah on your lifer the Northern hawk owl. All birds are great but a lifer is the greatest. Love all your owl pictures, along with all the other pictures and your blog. Happy Birding!!