Jan. 14, 2022, well before sunrise, under clear skies, light winds, and temp at 14F; sunrise at 7:39AM.

The CBC circle leaders in Ottawa Gatineau area have been kind enough to share lots of helpful information on their local winter crow roost for more than a year. The compilers are Daniel Toussaint and Bernie Ladouceur, along with CBC circle team members Aaron Hywarren, Jamie Spence, and Marcel Gahbauer.  A passing winter storm posed a number of travel challenges while making final plans, but it all worked out. After driving to Ottawa from Montreal on Friday night, I had a chance to preview the roost location, with very special thanks to Aaron Hywarren. He had provided exact and updated roost coordinates in advance and the location had just been updated.

On finding the roost location Friday night after a long drive in the snow and slush, the Crows were hunkered down for the night near a major intersection, SE of downtown Ottawa with constant heavy traffic. The roost area was located just east of Ottawa Hospital General Campus, in an area with low level vegetation and just a few trees. From a distance, the Crows were perched atop and within the low elevation shrubs that appeared to be no more that 15 feet in height. This image below captured hours after sunset time.

On Saturday morning, upon arrival at the roost about 90 minutes before sunrise time, the Crows had just started vocalizing with a gentle murmuring. Shortly after, Aaron arrived and we had a delightful time together. Here’s a bit of background on Aaron from his profile for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas: “I have been birding in one way or another for as long as I can remember, beginning with learning prairie bird song growing-up in Southern Manitoba. I am a member of the OFO, OFNC, and KFN, and in addition to participating in two long-standing local Christmas Bird Counts, I am the Ottawa Centre Sector Lead for the Ottawa-Gatineau Christmas Bird Count. I enjoy pretty much all aspects of the hobby, but three things make it particularly satisfying: seeing that special smile when someone gets a lifer; the quiet sense of wonder one has when reflecting on the journeys of migrants; and, locating an elusive species after a bushwhack or some other adventure. With my retirement after a rewarding career in the Federal Public Service, I am looking forward to contributing to the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas and confirming for everyone that all the really cool birds can be found around Ottawa.” It was such a blessing to meet and spend time with Aaron. He is very well informed, dedicated to the local birding community, and passionate about this winter Crow Roost.

The roosting Crows had consolidated mostly atop bushes and thickets located on the NE corner of the intersection along St. Laurent Street and Industrial Avenue. The Crows were fairly quiet as the skies lightened and the roost dispersal was more orderly than any other I’ve ever experienced. Aaron noted the established outbound flight lanes consistently used by the Crows as they headed out to day time foraging grounds. This image, from the parking lot at the Canada Conservation Institute was captured almost 50 minutes before sunrise time.

Aaron continued to share more about the history and movements of this local roost. In recent years, this roost has hit numbers in the 20,000 range, and this year the CBC count number may be close to 30,000, a record high number! This image captured close to 30 minutes before sunrise time, shows the outbound flight pattern while looking NE from the parking lot. Again, many thanks to Aaron for making it out so early and for generously sharing his knowledge and wisdom.

For the 2022 Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for the Andover Circle, this separate Crow Count was 13,750 Crows. In 2021, the CBC Andover Circle Crow Count was 12,250. Many thanks to Donna Cooper who coordinates and compiles the Andover Circle each year!

Note on counts/estimates: we are now using improved methods for counting the large number of Crows while streaming, staging, and in the roost. For all images, we use both a modified open source counting software program, as well as a hand count approach, while outside next to the roost, to carefully document our observations and to significantly increase reliability and accuracy of the presented numbers. Please refer to our new roost counting guide on main page.

Remember to check out the latest Crow Patrol Podcast with John Macone (Merrimack River Watershed Council): wintercrowroost.com/podcast/

Photo gear used for most outings:

Canon EOS 80D with Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS 

Canon EOS 80D with Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS (Infrared)     

Canon EOS R6 Mirrorless with Canon RF 28-70 f/2 L IS USM 

Canon EOS R6 Mirrorless with Canon RF 50 f/1.2 L USM 

Sony AX700 4K HDR Camcorder

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Blog post and photos by Craig Gibson, 2023 Crow Patrol