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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.


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


2013 christmas bird count results

a Barred Owl peers at a field team in Rutland TownOn Saturday, December 28, Rutland County Audubon completed its 40th annual consecutive Christmas Bird Count. On the national level it marked the 114th Christmas Bird Count.

Recognition and credit is due to the 22 dedicated field observers and eight faithful home feeder watchers who participated. Two dozen participants rallied later in the evening at the Proctor Free Library for a pot-luck supper and count down. To the four team members from outside Rutland County who joined the local teams, thank you for your enthusiasm and contributions. 

Weather conditions were mostly favorable with partly cloudy skies in the morning becoming more intense in the afternoon while a biting westerly wind at times gusted up to 15 mph. Temperatures for most of the day were above freezing and remained in the 30° to 38° range. Small ponds were frozen but streams were open, a contributing factor to the record number of Belted Kingfisher tallied. Snow cover varied from open ground to approximately 4 inches. Roads were clear, well sanded and drivable, an important consideration with the field teams covering 386.5 miles by car.

With 8,674 individual birds counted the number was within 2% of the ten year running average of 8832. The species count of 51 closely reflected the ten-year running average of 51.2.

In spite of the apparent ordinariness of the above numbers several records were established. The sighting of a single Bald Eagle and three Rough-legged Hawks matched previous records for the species. A Red-tailed Hawk count of 42 exceeded the previous record of 37 established 15 years previously. For many years only a single Peregrine Falcon had been sighted, now the record is two. It was a good year for Belted Kingfisher with a tally of six. The previous record of four goes back 25 years. The Carolina Wren total of 16 birds increased the record by one.

partly open water attracted geese and Belted KingfishersA new species was added to the count as species number 101 for the forty years Rutland County has undertaken the Christmas Bird Count. The new species is none other than the Vermont State Bird, the Hermit Thrush. Not one but two Hermit Thrush were documented! One bird was heard and the other bird was seen, each bird by a separate field team. Well done!

Count Numbers:

Canada Goose (705), American Black Duck (43), Mallard (74), Common Merganser (4), Bald Eagle (1), Sharp-shinned Hawk (1), Cooper’s Hawk (5), Red-tailed Hawk (42), Rough-legged Hawk (3), Peregrine Falcon (2), Ruffed Grouse (2), Wild Turkey (30), Rock Pigeon (609), Mourning Dove, (388), Barred Owl (1), Belted Kingfisher (6), Red-bellied Woodpecker (4), Downy Woodpecker (57), Hairy Woodpecker (32), Pileated Woodpecker (8), Horned Lark (10), Blue Jay (359), American Crow (1045), Common Raven (18), Black-capped Chickadee (858), Tufted Titmouse (67), Red-breasted Nuthatch (16),

White-breasted Nuthatch (78), Brown Creeper (7), Carolina Wren (16), Winter Wren (2), Golden-crowned Kinglet (13), Eastern Bluebird (25), Hermit Thrush* (2), American Robin (60), Cedar Waxwing (511), Northern Shrike (1), European Starling (1956), Northern Cardinal (110), American Tree Sparrow (237), Song Sparrow (4), White-throated Sparrow (20), Dark-eyed Junco (263), Snow Bunting (3), Red-winged Blackbird (4), Rusty Blackbird (10), Brown-headed Cowbird (4), Purple Finch (8), House Finch (68), American Goldfinch (475), House Sparrow (307).

Bold → Record Number    * New Species to the count.


christmas bird count feeder watchers needed!

Downy WoodpeckerCalling all Feeder Watchers!

This year’s annual Christmas Bird Count marks the 114th for National Audubon and the 40th for Rutland County Audubon. The information collected for over 2,300 counts in Canada, Mexico and the USA is combined into a single data set that constitutes the longest and most extensive Citizen Science bird monitoring exercise ever!

Count protocol dictates that the count area be a circle 15 miles in diameter and once designated remains constant. The local count circle is centered where Route 4 west crosses the Otter Creek in Center Rutland.

If you have a feeding station at home that attracts a “countable” number of birds and, if you live in Rutland City, Rutland Town, West Rutland or Proctor and would be willing to identify and tally your birds on count day, Saturday, December 28, please contact Roy Pilcher at shamwarivt@aol.com and he will take it from there.


Christmas bird count results

Bohemian Waxwings graced us with their presence during the CBC With nearly a foot of snow on the ground, the forecast of another day of snow on Saturday, December 29, while welcomed by ski enthusiasts, was of some concern to those who had planned and committed themselves to Rutland’s 39th annual Christmas Bird Count. Despit snow all day as forecast, the full roster of 8 teams nevertheless took to the field while 5 feeder watchers from the comfort of home tallied all and every bird bold enough to show itself or be heard.

Under the circumstances it was to be expected that relatively fewer miles would be traveled on foot in comparison to miles traveled by car.  However, a nice diversity of species was observed, 49 to be exact, only two species less than the running ten year average of 51. Six thousand four hundred seventy-one individual birds were tallied, a significant decrease from the 8,884 running ten year average.

Two new numerical records were set for the count, namely 78 Common Raven and 775 Common Redpoll.  The former was attributed to a carcass upon which the ravens were feasting on the Clarendon Flats and the latter reflecting the predicted implosion of the species into Vermont this winter. Unusual, but not unique to the Rutland CBC, was a single Great Black Back Gull at the Rutland transfer station, two Wilson’s Snipe in a drainage ditch, a single Rusty Blackbird and a single White-winged Crossbill observed at a feeder.

At day’s end several brave souls made it to the countdown gathering and potluck supper at the Proctor library, and, more importantly, safely home again!  An elegant sufficiency of food appeared for a balanced meal while all 8 teams each had a representative to report the day’s observations! 

Well done, Rutland! Here’s to next year’s fortieth count.