Rockford Christmas Bird Count results

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!
Dan Williams

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