The Rockford Christmas Bird count was held on Saturday, December 14.
The first paragraph of this letter could have been taken from the first paragraph of last year’s report. Mild weather, no snow cover, and a hard job finding birds. Sound familiar? I hope that this isn’t going to be the new normal.
We recorded 68 species and 23,350 individual birds, both of which were better than last year, but both still below the 10 year rolling average for the count. The average is 72 species.
Once again, we had to work hard. Open field birds, like Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs, were very hard to see or hear because the lack of snow cover kept them out in fields and not near roadsides. (Although I am reluctant to mention it, we counters aren’t getting any younger and our hearing and vision may not be as sharp was it once was, or which we hoped that it would still be. But, I digress..)
Highlights were: 2 Eurasian Tree Sparrows, which were new to the count; 5320 Mallards (most of them in 1 place) set a new count high for that species. Other new count highs were 4 Merlins and 10 Eurasian Collared-doves. 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets were documented and tied a count high. A single Killdeer was the only shorebird seen. Count week species, not seen on count day, were Trumpeter Swan, Short-eared Owl and Snow Bunting.
Lowlights were the continuing paltry number of American Crows (although they were up double from last year), only 2 Ring-necked Pheasants, and the absence of Wilson’s Snipe, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hermit Thrush White-crowned Sparrow or Brown-headed Cowbirds, all of which are pretty regular annual species on this count. Fruit-eating birds were hard to find (last year’s Polar Vortex killed a lot of honeysuckle and other flower buds so the fruit crop was diminished). Winter finches (Pine Siskins and Purple Finches) failed to irrupt southward this year. There is a lot of food up North. Many Sandhill Cranes have been migrating over Chicago and around the south end of Lake Michigan over the past 2 weeks, but none were detected on our CBC.
We recorded 68 species and 23,350 individual birds, plus 3 more species during count week, which is the 3 days before and 3 days after count day.
8 Cackling Goose 2 Northern Shrike
8145 Canada Goose 220 Blue Jay
cw Trumpeter Swan 395 American Crow
20 American Black Duck 50 Horned Lark
5320 Mallard (high count) 384 Black-capped Chickadee
6 Lesser Scaup 8 Tufted Titmouse
1 Bufflehead 231 White-breasted Nuthatch
28 Common Goldeneye 16 Brown Creeper
62 Common Merganser 5 Winter Wren
2 Ring-necked Pheasant (low) 1 Carolina Wren
40 Wild Turkey 3 Golden-crowned Kinglet
11 Great Blue Heron 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet (hc-tie)
59 Bald Eagle 14 Eastern Bluebird
7 Northern Harrier 3 American Robin
3 Sharp-shinned Hawk 2239 European Starling
11 Cooper’s Hawk 12 Cedar Waxwing
47 Red-tailed Hawk 5 Lapland Longspur
2 Rough-legged Hawk cw Snow Bunting
1 Killdeer 5 Yellow-rumped Warbler
3 Ring-billed Gull 1251 American Tree Sparrow
2 Herring Gull 1 Fox Sparrow
660 Rock Pigeon 1312 Dark-eyed Junco
10 Eurasian Collared-dove (high) 10 White-throated Sparrow
233 Mourning Dove 26 Song Sparrow
2 Eastern Screech-owl 5 Swamp Sparrow
10 Great Horned Owl 376 Northern Cardinal
7 Barred Owl 12 Red-winged Blackbird
cw Short-eared Owl 1 Common Grackle
7 Belted Kingfisher 391 House Finch
7 Red-headed Woodpecker 2 Purple Finch
117 Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Pine Siskin
244 Downy Woodpecker 311 American Goldfinch
51 Hairy Woodpecker 881 House Sparrow
16 Northern Flicker 2 Eurasian Tree Sparrow (hc)
12 Pileated Woodpecker
15 American Kestrel
4 Merlin (high count)
As usual, all of this data could not have been assembled without the collective effort by all of the participants. This has been the 120th anniversary of the beginning of the Audubon Christmas Bird Counts featuring volunteers donating their time and talent to contribute to the growing database of bird information. Thank you to every counter for their contributions! Next year’s count is tentatively set for Saturday, December 19. Please save the date on your calendar.
Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!