Christmas bird count surprisingly normal

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Warren Christmas Bird Count data manager Mike Toole said that he was surprised by the lack of bird activity for the December 17 event. Then he was surprised again by the number of bird species seen.

Weather for this bird count in Warren was not unusual. A cold blast drove many local birds southward. But to the north there was not as much ice, snow and frigid temperatures to drive many of the ‘snow birds’ into Warren County.

Counts were high for some species.

Field counters saw 2,119 European starlings. That is the third highest total ever in the 117 years of the Warren Christmas Bird Count. Highest ever was 2,880 in the 2013 count.

Six red-winged blackbirds was the most since 1985, but not near the record. The per year average count over the past 10 years has been one red-winged blackbird.

Brown-headed cowbird had a count of 35 this year, well above the 10-year average of 11, but not close to the 49 record.

While the dark-eyed junco count was low in some parts of the count area, the total of 714 counted was the most since 2008, and well above the 571 10-year average.

The white-throated sparrow count of 39 was the most since 2007 and above the 10-year average of 24, but not near the126 record.

Two fox sparrows were the first of the species seen during the count since the 2010 count.

Count participants saw some waterfowl which normally have passed to the south by count time, two gadwall, a species seen in just sever counts, a redhead, seen only in nine counts, a ring-necked duck, seen only in 10 counts, a lesser scaup, seen only in nine counts. Nine ruddy ducks ties the record set in 1991, and it has been seen in only 14 counts.

The count of 159 hooded mergansers was the second-greatest number ever, behind 207 seen in 2015.

The count of 92 buffleheads was the third-highest ever. The record count was in 2008 when 126 were seen.

The count of 43 ring-billed gulls was far off the 10-year average of 105, and fewest since 2008 when only 41 were counted.

Counters saw 34 red-bellied woodpeckers, third-most ever.

The 434 American crows seen set a new high count for this species, eclipsing the previous record of 397 crows.

Just one gray catbird tied the most ever and the 10-year average. This species has been seen in just seven Warren Counts.

Quite a few red, red robins were still bob, bob bobbing around the county. Participants counted 51 American robins, the second-highest number ever in the Warren Count and far above the average of 11, but not near the record of 148 robins.

A high number of 20 species that have occurred in at least 15 counts were not seen this year. These were mute swan, red-breasted merganser, rough-legged hawk, American Kestrel, ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, American coot, eastern screech owl, barred owl, horned lark, winter wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, yellow-rumped warbler, common grackle, evening grosbeak, common redpoll, eastern towhee, field sparrow, swamp sparrow and snow bunting. Total birds was 8,122, above the 10-year average. Total species was 61, nearly on the 10-year average.

There were 47 field observers this year. They were Ian Ashbaugh, Rachel Ashbaugh, Terry Ashbaugh, Chad Atwood, Baglia Brittany, Mike Bleech, Greg Burkett, Rachel Check, Chuck Conaway, Brian Devore, John Emery, Sherry Griffiths, Sylvia Grisez, Ron Johnson, Lara Larson, Bob Long, Ruth Lundin, Greg Lyle, Rick Lyle, Jay Mengel, Colin Morell and Greg Morell.

Also, Amy Morrison, Marge Neel, Elizabeth Nicholson, Ken Nicholson, Roseanna Nicholson, John Nobles, Will Novitske, Tim Olsen, Julia Platt, Dave Rigg, John Schultz, Bob Shodi, Randy Sliter, Terry Steffan, Scott Stoleson, Kathy Stevens, Bob Sundell, Jeff Tome, Mike Toole, Tina Toole, Charles Vevers, Don Watts, Don Worley and Susie Zimmerman.

New Field Observers are always welcome. To become part of the Warren Christmas Bird Count phone either Don Watts at 723-9125, or Mike Toole at 723-4714.