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Entries in Christmas Bird Count (15)

Thursday
Jan032019

Christmas Bird Count Results

Another Christmas Bird Count is in the books, Rutland County Audubon’s 45th and National Audubon’s 119th.

A total of 48 birders, consisting of eight field teams and 12 feeder watchers, tallied 46 species. Two additional species, great blue heron and peregrine falcon, were sighted during Count Week (the three days before count day and three days following when species not seen on count day may be included in the tally).

The day started in the low 40s and was mostly cloudy, and ended in the low 30s, with some light rain and snow, but virtually no snow cover. Whether this is what affected the lower number of birds is hard to tell. Although this is time of year when the lowest number of species is expected, most of the field teams and feeder watchers noted exceptionally low activity.

Our average count for the past 10 years is 51 species with a high count of 58 in 2011 and a low count of 43 in 2009.

Bohemian WaxwingsWe had several new participants this year with two coming from as far away as Georgia. Two teams had seven participants and two teams achieved 35 species for their areas. And more territory was covered on foot this year. There were a few new feeder watchers and they did an excellent job, including one who had the dubious privilege of counting the American crows as they came in to their evening roost.

But there were highlights despite low species numbers!

Several bird species have irrupted from the north this season. An irruption is defined as a “dramatic, irregular migration of large numbers of birds,” usually in response to food supply. Two of these species were observed on the count: pine grosbeak seen by three field teams and Bohemian waxwings by two teams. Hopefully we will see more of them as the winter progresses. Ornamental crabapples are the place to look for these.

Two other irruptive species being seen in Vermont this season were not recorded on our count – common redpolls and evening grosbeaks. The pine siskins seen this fall seem to have moved on.

Two new species had a record high of individuals for the count: eastern bluebirds, with 51 observed, and 14 red-bellied woodpeckers, a species that has been increasing rapidly in the state over the past 15 years or so.

There were some unusual species that were not new, but are never guaranteed. Two Wilson’s snipe were spotted along Otter Creek by the same team that also saw a winter wren.

MerlinOverall raptor numbers were low, 22 red-tailed hawks were spotted, about half our high which occurred in 2017. Three sharp-shinned hawks and five Cooper’s hawks were seen, contrasting with a high of nine in 1995 and eight in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Only one barred owl was noted. Two of the ever-increasing bald eagles were seen. A photo of one raptor, originally thought to be a kestrel seen in poor light, turned out to be a merlin. No other raptors, other than these and the count week peregrine falcon, were observed.

Some misses included no belted kingfishers, despite all the open water; no-snow no-show snow buntings; and no golden-crowned kinglets.

On a non-avian note, a green frog was seen at Rocky Pond at Pine Hill Park in Rutland and reported to the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.

Of course, the highlight of the count is the potluck supper where we countdown the day’s results and enjoy everyone’s best potluck contribution. We had a high number of birders attend the supper – 35! Although bird numbers were down, spirits were high!

Thanks to Kathleen Guinness for organizing a successful count! It’s a lot of work, but it comes together year after year.

 

 

 

Species List:

Canada Goose                                     
Mallard                                    
American Black Duck              
Common Merganser                
Ruffed Grouse                                             
Wild Turkey                             
Rock Pigeon                           
Mourning Dove                       
Wilson's Snipe                        
Great Blue Heron                   
Sharp-shinned Hawk               
Cooper's Hawk                         
Bald Eagle                                
Red-tailed Hawk                       
Barred Owl                                
Red-bellied Woodpecker           
Downy Woodpecker                   
Hairy Woodpecker                      
Pileated Woodpecker                
Northern Flicker                                
Merlin                                         
Peregrine Falcon                    
Northern Shrike                       
Blue Jay                                   
American Crow                    
Common Raven                       
Black-capped Chickadee           
Tufted Titmouse                        
Red-breasted Nuthatch            
White-breasted Nuthatch          
Brown Creeper                           
Winter Wren                                
Carolina Wren                            
Eastern Bluebird                        
American Robin                          
European Starling                       
Bohemian Waxwing                    
Cedar Waxwing                          
Pine Grosbeak                            
House Finch                                
American Goldfinch                    
American Tree Sparrow              
Dark-eyed Junco                        
White-throated Sparrow              
Song Sparrow                             
Red-winged Blackbird                 
Northern Cardinal                        
House Sparrow                            

 

 

Monday
Dec032018

Christmas Bird Count

What better way to celebrate the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 than by participating in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC)? This year marks the 119th annual count for National Audubon and the 45th for Rutland County. The Rutland count will be held on Saturday, December 29.

What is the Christmas Bird Count? Many years ago, it was the custom to go out during the Christmas season and shoot birds for sport. In 1900, as people began to realize that bird populations were in decline (and some species going extinct), ornithologist Frank Chapman decided it would be better to COUNT birds instead of shooting them. The idea began to spread and today there are over 2,500 counts throughout the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Pacific Islands.

The Rutland Christmas Count area is a circle centered at the falls in Center Rutland and encompasses a 15-mile diameter around that. That includes all of Rutland City, Rutland Town, portions of Proctor, West Rutland, Ira, Pittsford and Clarendon. Participants go out to cover assigned portions of the circle, counting as many birds as possible, as well as noting weather conditions and mileage covered. Others count from home.

The Christmas Bird Count is fun! And it’s a great way to get out in the fresh air and enjoy nature after the excesses of the holidays. You join other bird enthusiasts to take on the challenge of identifying and counting as many species and individual birds as possible. If you don’t feel your skills are up to par, don’t worry, we’ll pair you with a team. It can be an opportunity to meet new friends and learn more about birds and citizen science, the real point of the CBC.  

Citizen science, the idea that non-professional people can contribute to a body of data, important to furthering scientific study, is what the Christmas Bird Count is all about. With over a century of data, the CBC is one of the oldest citizen science projects. Data has been used by researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

So now you know why you should participate here is how:

Join a field team! We have eight teams, seven that cover a portion of the circle and travel by car, getting out at promising spots. One team walks along Otter Creek and is definitely for the hardier among us. Contact Kathleen Guinness at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org to join the count.

Not a fan of going out in the cold weather? Feeder watchers within the count circle are also needed. If you aren’t sure if you live within the circle, contact us at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org and we can help you figure it out.

The day ends at the Proctor Library with a potluck supper and a countdown of the species seen. Attendance at the supper isn’t mandatory (we know this is a busy time of year), but it’s a lot of fun and the food is always abundant and good. The supper starts at 6 p.m. with beverages and utensils to share. Just bring your favorite dish to share!

Monday
Jan082018

2017 Christmas Bird Count Results

Red-tailed HawkRutland ‘s Christmas Bird Count is over. All that is left to do is review the final results and learn from them. Before going on, let’s recognize our faithful leader, Roy Pilcher for his many years of chairing this event and writing this summary. Roy accepted this responsibility for many years and inspired most of the present RCAS board members and friends to keep the tradition alive. Thank you, Roy, for all you have done. We know your efforts have enriched our lives and appreciate all the help you continue to provide. Once again Roy participated in the count as a team leader.

Last year Kathleen Guinness took over organizing the count and the potluck supper held at the Proctor Library. Thanks to Kathleen for carrying on this important tradition!

To help me get started I read some of the previous summaries on our website journal. It’s shocking to read ‘weather was more like April,’ ‘the meadows were green’ and ‘ponds and rivers were free of ice.’ This year my team started its count at 7:30 with the thermometer reading minus 10. We were dressed for the weather and did our best to perform the count despite the bone-chilling weather.

This year our CBC field teams and feeder watchers counted over 7,000 individual birds representing 52 species. Considering the minus temperatures (the day’s high rose to only about 11), this is quite an accomplishment.

Here are a few points of interest starting with regular species that show up year after year.

Mallard: 178

This is down from the 25-year average of 251. Still water was completely frozen, but the small streams was partly open giving them the necessary food and shelter.

Mourning Dove: 329

Down from the average of 523. Fortunately, doves have been flocking to feeders, but perhaps some were missed due to the difficulty in counting in such extreme cold.

 

 

Red-tailed Hawk: 23

Our average. This is a positive sign since a stable raptor population may indicate stability of other species lower down on the food chain

Red-bellied Woodpecker: 14

Up from the average of 3. This species has expanded throughout the state in the past 15 years. None were reported in the early years of the count.

American Crow: 2,663

Up from an average of 1,090. Our record high was 1,809 in 2003. To get an accurate count, volunteer Tracy Busony started weeks ahead of time watching the crows as they came to roost at various locations around Rutland City. With help from a neighbor on count day they counted the whole flock, one by one.

Black-capped Chickadee: 453

Down from an average of 1,014. Sadly chickadees, our beloved feeder birds, are in decline. Hopefully some of this year’s low number can be attributed to the difficulty in counting due to the extreme cold weather.

How about some surprises?

Wilson’s Snipe: 1  

This is a surpise to many, but not to the team that leads this section of the count along Otter Creek. This is a species that migrates, but a few may stay behind if they find open water and a food supply. They are hard to spot so maybe more are around than we know.

Red-shouldered hawk: 1

Most have departed, but like the snipe, occasionally one or two can remain. Not a first for the Rutland CBC, our first in 25 years. There are more reports of over-wintering Red-shouldered Hawks in Vermont than in the past.

Eastern Bluebird: 24

Our average of 17. Many people think bluebirds always migrate, but if the food is here, some may stay (even if it is minus 10!)

American Robin: 14

This is down from an average of 23. Many folks think of the robin as our symbol of spring, but it really isn’t. The number of robins remaining is dependent on the food supply. We had just over a dozen this year year, but have recorded many more in prior CBCs.

Red Crossbill: 3

We don’t always get crossbills as they are known to follow cone crops. This is one of those years. Keep a lookout for them as winter wears on!

Snow Bunting: 162

Up from an average of 85. It’s hard to say what a normal year is because it can range from none to several hundred. They do migrate here from farther north looking for food. If you haven’t seen Snow Buntings then watch the cornfields for a burst of white wings and a swirling flock. It’s a wonderful sight.

Dark-eyed Junco: 1,352

Up from an average of 267. Many of us expected to see more juncos this year because we have had so many at our feeders. Fortunately, one of our volunteers has knowledge of them. Normally many more would be farther south in areas like Maryland. The CBC results from those areas (so far) have shown lower than normal numbers. The birds are still here so now we’ll watch to see if they pack their bags or hang around our feeders all winter.

What was missing?

There are numerous species that we see one year, but not the next. That is a normal pattern. No American Kestrels or Northern Harriers were reported. Wild Turkey numbers were way down, but they are probably still in the woods. Only one Belted Kingfisher was reported. A look around the frozen ponds and streams tells you why.

Many of us would love to see a Snowy Owl here in Rutland County, but we’re still waiting for that. They have been reported in Vermont in a few places this year. 

It is amazing we have completed this same count for 44 years in spite of the holiday rush. The data is important. One year may not tell us anything, but the sum of many years is valuable information. That is why we eBird all of our sightings year-round as well as participate in as many citizen science projects we can. We are always looking for volunteers to join our teams, do a feeder watch at home or participate in various projects. Our Christmas Bird Count data will be available in a final form within a few weeks on the National Audubon web site so you can explore it further. If you have any questions please let us know by email from birding @rutlandcountyaudubon.org.

 

 

Tuesday
Dec012015

christmas bird count - january 2

Count #42, count #116 – those are impressive numbers for Rutland County Audubon and National Audubon respectively as they represent the number of years the local and national Christmas Bird Count has taken place. This year’s count will take place on Saturday, January 2. What better way than to kick off the new year than with a day of birding?

Field observers and feeder watchers are always needed (feeder watchers must live within the 15-mile count circle centered in Rutland).

If you haven’t participated in a CBC now is your chance! Click here to read the report from last year’s count to get a feel for how the day goes. As tradition goes we will gather at the Proctor Library at 6 p.m. for a potluck supper and the countdown of the day’s species. Bring a dish to share. Utensils and beverages will be provided 

Contact Roy Pilcher at 775-3461 or email birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org for more details.

Sunday
Jan042015

rcas's 41st christmas bird count

Red-tailed Hawks were well-represented during the CBCTraditionally the Rutland County Annual Christmas Bird Count takes place on the last weekend of December or the first weekend of January depending as to when Christmas day lands. Saturday, December 27 was the designated day for this year’s count, count number 41 for Rutland County and count number 115 for National Audubon since the first bird count was inaugurated by Frank Chapman as an alternative to the “side hunt," a Christmas tradition of shooting birds.

The 15-mile diameter count circle, once delineated, remains the same from year to year. Participation and effort seem to follow an even pattern so “weather” is left as the great arbiter. If one had misplaced the calendar, field observers this year may well have imagined that they were out during the first week in April. Meadows appeared lush and free of snow, streams were flowing strongly and ponds were mostly free of ice. Temperatures were in the 32° to 43° F. range. Some roads and fields were flooded adding to some interruption in coverage.

A reasonable assumption would be that under such weather conditions birds both waterfowl and song would disperse more widely as compared to an immediate frozen and snow covered habitat. And so it was to be. Individual bird numbers came in at 5,705 as compared to a running ten-year average of 8,638. That is almost a 34% decrease! The species count was not so depressed with 50 species tallied just one less than the running ten-year average of 51.1 species.

CBC field formTwo previous species records were equaled, namely the sighting of two Peregrine Falcons and the sighting of three Great Blue Herons.  A new record of 10 individuals was set for Red-bellied Woodpecker. Looking back over the past 40 years of Rutland’s Christmas Bird count records, a single Red-bellied Woodpecker was first observed in 1990, then two in 2003, four in 2004, five in 2010, six in 2011 and finally 10 in 2014. Quite a progression and a nice illustration as to why the collection of all this data is so important!

Thanks is due to the 21 field observers who drove 333.7 miles and walked 20.15 miles, spending a total of 65 party-hours on the beat. Thanks is also due to the seven feeder watchers who spent 37.5 hours at home tallying the birds at their feeders.

At the conclusion of the day, 25 weary but content participants enjoyed a great spread at the traditional pot luck supper and count-down at the Proctor Free Library.

Next year’s Christmas Bird count is set for Saturday, January 2, 2016. 

two Barred Owls were observed on the countThe numbers:  Great Blue Heron [3], Canada Goose [140], Wood Duck [1], American Black Duck [21], Mallard [133], Common Goldeneye [1], Common Merganser [6], Sharp-shinned Hawk [1], Cooper’s Hawk [2], Red-tailed Hawk [32], Peregrine Falcon [1], Merlin [1], Wild Turkey [84], Wilson’s Snipe [1], Rock Pigeon [305], Mourning Dove [417], Barred Owl [2], Belted Kingfisher [2], Red-bellied Woodpecker [10], Downy Woodpecker [67], Hairy Woodpecker [47], Northern Flicker [2], Pileated Woodpecker [13], Blue Jay [366], American Crow [1063], Common Raven [21], Black-capped Chickadee [697], Tufted Titmouse [69], Red-breasted Nuthatch [17], White-breasted Nuthatch [123], Brown Creeper [9], Carolina Wren [12], Golden-crowned kinglet [1], Eastern Bluebird [35], Hermit Thrush [1], American Robin [4], Northern Shrike [1], European Starling [1027], Common Yellowthroat [1], Northern Cardinal [102], American Tree Sparrow [97], Song Sparrow [6], White-throated Sparrow [2], Dark-eyed Junco [141], Red-winged Blackbird [16], Brown-headed Cowbird [2], House Finch [105], Pine Siskin [29], American Goldfinch [158], House Sparrow [308].

Roy Pilcher begins the countdown

 Thana McGary and Lana and Fred Bates help with cleanupLarry Booker tallies the numbers