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Entries in Christmas Bird Count (15)


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

Christmas Bird Count-January 2 

Red-breasted NuthatchThe catch phrase "think globally, act locally," may well apply to the annual Christmas Bird Count phenomenon now in its 111th year at the global level and the 37th year at the local level. The numbers are really quite staggering now that the count has expanded beyond the USA and Canada. Last year 2,160 counts involved 60,753 volunteers, who tallied over 56 million birds representing 2,300 species. While dwarfed by all those numbers, Rutland County's contribution amounted to 6,333 individual birds, representing 43 species, tallied by 28 volunteers. Incidentally, those numbers were well below average, something we hope to address this year with your help!

Since the results of this mammoth "citizen science" exercise form the basis of serious research, certain protocols need to be followed throughout. The count circle, 15 miles in diameter, once described, cannot be changed from year to year. The window of opportunity for undertaking the count is standardized to run from December 14 through January 5. Miles traveled by car and by foot are recorded as are the hours spent watching feeders. The high and low temperatures are recorded as are the winter, water, and precipitation conditions. Count compilers and organizers, while independent, tend to follow similar organizational methods of designating field teams to specific areas while feeder watchers may remain in the comfort of their homes.

This year's count is set for Sunday, January 2. The traditional potluck supper follows the day's activities when a tentative list of the sightings is compiled and highlights recounted. Rutland County Audubon participants have enjoyed the hospitality of the Proctor Library over the years and will do so again, gathering in time to kick off proceedings at 6 PM. Bring a dish to share; beverages and utensils will be provided.

For further information and/or express a desire to be part of this 37th Rutland Christmas Bird Count, contact Roy Pilcher at 775-3461 or shamwariVT@aol.com.


the Christmas Bird Count results are in!

The Rutland County Audubon Christmas Bird Count held on December 26 produced forty-three species and a total of 6,333 individual birds. This compares to a 10-year running average of 49.5 species and 9,103 individual birds.

This year family gatherings, work obligations and illness reduced the number of field teams from eight to seven, comprised of 19 observers. Dire predictions of sleet and rain did not materialize, but winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts of 30 to 35 mph no doubt affected the numbers as birds, like us, dislike being out in bad weather.

Nevertheless, dedicated birders, plus nine feeder watchers, prevailed, completing RCAS’s 36th annual CBC. 749 Black-capped Chickadees were seen during this year's CBCAnd, as in most years, new records were broken. The numbers of Mallard and Common Merganser set new highs with 474 and 16, respectively. Other species have established themselves as regulars on the annual list such as Red-bellied Woodpecker (1) and Carolina Wren (4). Bald Eagle made its second CBC appearance.

Other species, whose numbers are cyclical and tied to food sources, were in low numbers or absent altogether this year such as White-winged Crossbill (0), Common Redpoll (0), and Pine Siskin (1). Other species, sadly, seem to be observed in declining numbers as the years pass. For example Evening Grosbeak has not been observed since 2007 when 45 were counted. In 1983 there were a record 1,871 grosbeaks!

One bonus is Christmas Bird Count protocol which allows 142 Dark-eyed Juncos were countedspecies seen during the count week, but not the day of the count, to be included in the final tally. This year, thanks to keen eyes and a bit of extra effort, Cooper’s Hawk, Barred Owl, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Northern Shrike, and Pine Siskin were added during count week.

Stories of the day and a countdown of the day’s birds were shared that evening at the potluck supper at the Proctor Library. Good food and the camaraderie of fellow birders closed out the birding year for RCAS. 

Many thanks to Roy Pilcher for making sure the CBC happens, as he does every year, and to all the participants for their dedication to the Christmas Bird Count!

Information on past counts across the country can be found at the National Audubon website.  Once the final results are reviewed, the 2009 data will be available as well.

Hope to see you at the 2010 count!


local Christmas Bird Count set for Saturday, December 26

On Saturday, December 26, Rutland County Audubon will participate in the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, National Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. From Alaska to Antarctica, tens of thousands of volunteers will add a new layer to over a century of data vital to conservation. Armed with binoculars, local volunteers will join this Citizen Science initiative to count birds in a prescribed 15-mile diameter circle centered where Route 4A crosses the Otter Creek in Center Rutland. The Rutland count will be one of eighteen counts between December 14, 2009 and January 5, 2010 in Vermont. This will mark the 36th local count and the 110th national and international count. Last year the total number of Christmas Bird Counts exceeded 2,000 and over 65 million birds were tallied!

Last year the Rutland count fielded 29 observers in 8 teams who covered 25 miles on foot and 278 miles by car and along with the 8 feeder watchers tallied 10,533 individual birds (9,350 is the 10-year running average).

Scientists rely on gathered data to better understand how birds and the environment we share are faring. Just like canaries in the coal mine, birds serve as early indicators of problems that can eventually affect people and wildlife. 

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when the founder of Bird-Lore (the progenitor of Audubon magazine), Frank Chapman, suggested an alternative to the “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people “hunt” birds only to identify, count, and record them. These “Binocular Brigades” often brave winter’s chill, ice and snow to record changes in resident bird populations and their ranges.

Traditionally the count day concludes with a potluck supper. It is a time to exchange stories and experiences and to establish a tentative list of the day's sightings. All participants and friends are welcome to meet at the Proctor Free Library at 6 o'clock. Tableware and beverages will be supplied and participants are encourages to bring their choice of a hot dish, salad or dessert.

New participants are always welcome as field observers or feeder watchers. This year new recruites are particularly welcome as several veteran particpants will be away over the holidays. Any new participants will be assigned to an experienced team leader! If interested, please give Roy a call at 775-3461.


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