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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. 


christmas bird count 2012

Common Redpolls are here this yearFirst, a look back at Rutland County Audubon’s past participation in the Christmas Bird Count tradition. By way of keeping track, RCAS designated last year’s count as #112/38.  The numbers indicate that it was the 112th national count and the 38th local count. That’s right - Rutland County Audubon supporters have undertaken 38 local Christmas Bird Counts while on the national level counts have been undertaken all the way back to Christmas Day 1900. The first count was an alternative to the post-Christmas “side hunt” tradition of  wanton slaughter. The Christmas Bird Count phenomenon of data collection is both the longest running and most broadly based citizen science project in this country. Data already collected continues to drive legislation and policies that designate, protect and sustain birds in general and those in crisis in particular.

Christmas Bird Counts must occur between December 14 and January 5. Count circles of a 15-mile diameter once designated remain constant. The center of our local circle is where Route 4 crosses the Otter Creek in Center Rutland. The area covered radiates 7.5 miles all around from there. There are 19 counts scheduled to take place this year in Vermont.

Over the 38 years the Rutland count has tallied 98 species. Results from count 112/38 indicate that 8,744 individual birds were counted and 60 species were observed. New records continue to be set and last year was no exception with counts of 819 Canada Geese, 1 Eastern Screech-Owl, 6 Red-bellied Woodpecker, 136 American Robin and 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers. These observations were collected by 34 field observers and 6 feeder watchers. 

Count # 113/39 will take place this year on Saturday, December 29. Field teams will be assembled and field captains will be in touch with their members who will cover their designated area. As always feeder watchers located within the count circle are very welcome.  Note a major change this year: There is NO PARTICIPATION FEE. Results both national and international will be available when compiled on the internet and not in print form.

An important tradition of most counts is the “countdown pot luck dinner” and that of the Rutland count is no exception. We will gather at the Proctor Free Library following the count at 6 o’clock. Participants and spouses/family are asked to bring a hot dish, a salad or a desert.  Beverages, flatware and utensils will be provided.

If you participated last year you will be contacted, if not please give Roy a call at 775-3461. More eyes looking, more birds tallied, the end result is more fun!

For a list of all the CBCs in Vermont, click here.

For prior years' summaries, click here.


rcas 38th christmas bird count results

Why, you ask, give up eight or nine hours of your time to participate in an annual count of the birds?

Tufted TitmouseCould it be because there are birds out there to be counted and birds are part of our natural world? And the more one knows about them the more one appreciates them and the greater the wonderment? Or is it because there are those fellow enthusiasts whose addiction and concentration may rival your own and whose company is to be enjoyed?

However, striking a more rational stance, don’t forget there is a tradition now stretching back one hundred and eleven years of generations of birders who were similarly motivated to record and to contribute their time and their efforts to an ever expanding database of information of which the local contribution is a mere miniscule, nevertheless essential part! With the enormous capabilities of computers to store data, Christmas Bird Counts have now gone global expanding beyond the U.S.A and Canada to many countries of the Western Hemisphere. 

Saturday, December 31, was the appointed day for Rutland County’s thirty-eighth annual count.  The weatherman’s prediction was for sleet and rain after midnight but we were spared! Intermittent light rain and a generally cloudy day were as favorable conditions as could be expected for this season of the year. Our standard 15-mile diameter circle was divided as usual into eight sectors. It was covered by eight designated teams of three to seven members each with the mandate and responsibility to record with due diligence the numbers and species of birds present. These teams totalling 38 individuals traveled 289 miles by car and another 38 miles on foot. While at home six households within the count circle maintained a watchful eye on their feeders over a combined period of 48 hours.

Following the day's efforts, and despite it being New Year's Eve, over two dozen participants gathered at the Proctor Library to enoy a bountiful potluck and to count down the day's birds.

With the last list submitted and a final tally made, the data for the local Rutland Count is ready to be transmitted electronically and gathered with between two to three thousand similar counts from across the hemisphere.

Roy tallies the day's resultsFor our Rutland County count, 58 bird species were observed on count day with two additional species not seen on count day but during count week (three days prior and three days following the actual CBC day), yielding a grand total of 60 species. As to individual birds, a total of 8,744 was tallied on count day. By way of comparison the running ten year average of species for the Rutland count is 52.3, an increase this year of 15%, and 9,200 individual birds, a decrease this year of 5%.

This year’s list:

Great Blue Heron (1), Canada Goose (819*), American Black Duck (14), Mallard (329), Hooded Merganser (1), Common Merganser (7), Northern Harrier (2), Sharp-shinned Hawk (1), Cooper’s Hawk (2), Red-tailed Hawk (24), American Kestrel (1), Merlin (CW), Peregrine Falcon (1), Ruffed Grouse (2), Wild Turkey (74), Wilson’s Snipe (3), Rock Pigeon (581), Mourning Dove (603), Eastern Screech Owl (1**), Barred Owl (3), Belted Kingfisher (2), Red-bellied Woodpecker (6*), Downy Woodpecker (65), Hairy Woodpecker (43), Northern Flicker (1), Pileated Woodpecker (10), Horned Lark (CW), Blue Jay (302), American Crow (794), Common Raven (19), Black-capped Chickadee (873), Tufted Titmouse (44), Red-breasted Nuthatch (14), White-breasted Nuthatch (97), Brown Creeper (20), Carolina Wren (8), Golden-crowned Kinglet (10), Eastern Bluebird (30), American Robin (136*), Northern Mockingbird (1), Gray Catbird (1), Cedar Waxwing (244), Northern Shrike (2), European Starling (2276), Yellow-rumped Warbler (3**), Northern Cardinal (79), American Tree Sparrow (91), Chipping Sparrow (1), Song Sparrow (3), White-throated Sparrow (7), Dark-eyed Junco (221), Snow Bunting (13), Red-winged Blackbird (73), Brown-headed Cowbird (5), Purple Finch (11), House Finch (149), Common Redpoll (29), Pine Siskin (15), American Goldfinch (195), House Sparrow (382).

BOLD       Equal to previous Numerical Record.

BOLD*     New Numerical Record.

BOLD**   New Species to the Count.

The thirty-eight local Rutland counts have now tallied 100 species!

Historical information on Rutland's counts and CBCs across the hemisphere, click here.


thirty-eighth annual Christmas Bird Count on December 31

a Bohemian Waxwing earlier this yearThe first Christmas Bird count took place on Christmas Day, 1900. It was organized as a reaction to the tradition of the Christmas Side Hunt in which participants would choose “sides” and then proceed with their guns to the fields and woods to shoot as many birds and wild creatures as possible. Ornithologist Frank Chapman decided there was the potential for a better holiday tradition, namely counting birds in a “Christmas Bird Census”! In that first Christmas Bird Census there were 27 participants who observed 90 species of birds and approximately 18,500 individual birds. In contrast, the 111th Christmas Bird Count achieved a new all-time record with 62,624 participants representing 2,215 counts of which 1,714 were in the United States, 394 in Canada with the remainder in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.  Of the 61,359,451 individual birds tallied, 57,542,123 were in the United States and 3,355,759 were in Canada.  In Vermont we contributed 18 local counts to the international effort. The Annual Christmas Bird Count, now in its 112th year is both the largest and the longest running citizen science project anywhere!

Last year marked the 37th consecutive annual count by Rutland County Audubon. Thirty-one field observers in 8 teams covered 25.5 miles on foot and 310.5 miles by car. In addition there were 6 feeder watchers. Their combined efforts tallied 9,260 individual birds across 51 species.  Record high counts were achieved for Pileated Woodpecker (16), Common Raven (41) and Bohemian Waxwing (798). For a description of last year’s count click here.

Rutland County’s 38th Annual Christmas Bird Count is set for Saturday, December 31.  The count circle is 15 miles in diameter and is centered where old Route 4A crosses the Otter Creek in Center Rutland. Feeder watchers and field observers are always most welcome to join in this annual quest. As tradition dictates, a pot luck dinner follows at the Proctor Free Library at 6 o’clock in the evening, affording an opportunity to relax and enjoy the company of fellow birders as a tentative list of the day’s sightings is developed.  Mark your calendars to reserve the date and call Roy Pilcher at 775-3461 if you are interested in participating. 


the results are in!

I set two alarm clocks to 5 A.M., a precaution as sleep the night before the annual Christmas Bird Count is predictably fitful. By that hour I am wide-awake and ready to go! Sounds during the night were particularly ominous; the splattering of water from the roof on my patio confirmed the prediction that a light rain would persist throughout the night into Sunday morning, the day of the count. Birding in the rain is birding at its worst! Cold, snow, wind, heat, and even the annoyance of insects are preferable!

Our field team of five rendezvoused at the College of St. Joseph at 7:00 a.m. It was one of eight field teams designed to cover the eight sectors into which the 15-mile diameter standard count circle had been divided. We consolidated into two cars, equipped with a pair of radios in case we became separated. We were off, enveloped by ground fog and under a light rain.

At our first stop at the Otter Creek, mostly free of ice, we scanned for ducks but with no luck. For the next 45 minutes we confined ourselves to urban side streets, checking local feeders, preferably the ones that the homeowners had remembered to fill. The early birds did not fail us. We noted the usual feeder activity, Black-capped Chickadees, a Tufted Titmouse, an American Goldfinch, a Downy Woodpecker, a pair of Northern Cardinals, White-breasted Nuthatches, and a welcome Red-breasted Nuthatch calling from a Norway Spruce besides a clutch of Mourning Doves. Leaving the city behind, we headed for Boardman Hill where a farm hedgerow yielded a large flock of Wild Turkey and, above in a gnarled maple, a Red-bellied Woodpecker. The heavily wooded Quarterline Road was good for a raucous pair of Pileated Woodpeckers, heard and then seen. It was also good for a flock of well over 100 Bohemian Waxwing and, for some of our group, the first good look at this year’s irruption of northerners. 

Turning east into Walker Mountain Road we made for Clarendon and the Otter Creek floodplain. The ground fog was still intense but lifting, the rain had ceased and above a patch or two of blue, a promise and a stimulus to press on! Press on we did and fortunately in the second car a pair of sharp eyes made out the obscure silhouette of a Great Blue Heron pacing a narrow drainage ditch seeking a morsel on which to sustain it. We would return at noon when the skies cleared to find the bird still there, an extraordinary and memorable scene.Great Blue Heron observed during the count

The day progressed under partly cloudy skies, temperatures were moderate in the 37° F to 46° range, balmy enough in fact for us to take a lunch break at a picnic table adjacent to the local firehouse. Refreshed, we continued, bird by bird, species upon species, 29, 30, 31… would we make 32?  Eyes tired, with light failing once again, it took a sharp-eyed observer to make out the silhouette of a raptor perched across the Otter Creek among the bare limbs of a tree. A quick U-turn and with the aid of a spotting scope, we had species number 32, a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Time to pack it in, freshen up, and make our way to the potluck supper and count down. 

The traditional potluck supper was held at the Proctor Free Library with 35 in attendance, representing all the eight field teams and several feeder watchers. Following an excellent spread, it was time for a provisional countdown of the day’s sightings and highlights. Final numbers revealed that 51 species had been tallied and 9,260 individual birds counted, the combined effort of 31 field observers and 7 feeder watchers. Rutland County’s thirty-seventh Christmas Bird Count was now history and part of the national record that going back one hundred and ten years (this being the one hundred and eleventh national annual count).

Here are the numbers (bold indicates species with numerical highs, along with previous high):

Sharp-shinned Hawk 4
Cooper’s Hawk 5
Red-tailed Hawk 24
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Ruffed Grouse 3
Wild Turkey 206
Rock Pigeon 364
Mourning Dove 474
Barred Owl 7 [6]
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-Bellied Woodpecker 5 [4]
Downy Woodpecker 59
Hairy Woodpecker 35
Pileated Woodpecker 16 [12]
Horned Lark 4
Blue Jay 261
American Crow 1,345
Common Raven 41 [25]
Black-capped Chickadee 1,065
Tufted Titmouse 118
Red-breasted Nuthatch 72
White-breasted Nuthatch 140
Brown Creeper 11
Carolina Wren 15 [6]
Golden-crowned Kinglet 14
Eastern Bluebird 36
American Robin 25
Bohemian Waxwing 798 [250]
Great blue Heron 1
Canada Goose 571
American Black Duck 61
Mallard 318
Common Merganser 10
Cedar Waxwing 88
European Starling 1,465
Northern Cardinal 116
American Tree Sparrow 228
Song Sparrow 4
White-throated Sparrow 9
Slate-colored Junco 159
Snow Bunting 165
Red-winged Blackbird 6
Rusty Blackbird 4
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Purple Finch 7
House Finch 221
Common Redpoll 87
Pine Siskin 3
American Goldfinch 187
House Sparrow 399