Without lows there can be no highs, nothing to measure against. This year field observers counted very few birds in the 68th Warren County Christmas Bird Count. A total of 6,406 birds seen this year was the lowest total since 2006, and 1,212 birds fewer than the long term average.
Weather conditions have a lot to do with the total number of birds and the variety of species. Morning skies were clear, changing to partly cloudy in the afternoon. Temperature varied from 15 degrees in the morning to a high of 28 degrees. Wind out of the South to Southwest was 7 mph to 18 mph. Still waters in the area were frozen, and moving waters were open.
I commented to Colin Morell, my partner for the morning, that conditions seemed to be good for seeing a lot of birds including some of the species that move into this area during cold weather. So much for my prognostication skills.
The 10-year average of 23 red-tailed hawks was nearly matched by 24 counted this year.
This year field observers counted 328 blue jays. That was the lowest number seen since 2004 when field observcers counted 298 blue jays.
Observers counted 305 ring-billed gulls. The 10-year average is 149, but maximum was 739.
Although this was the 68th Christmas Bird Count for Warren County, Christmas Bird Counts have been held since 1900 when 27 people participated in counts at 25 locations in the United States and in Canada.
Christmas Bird Counts make up the longest wildlife population study in the world.
No lows were set for any species in Warren County this year, however, 11 species which have been seen during at least 15 counts were missing this year. These were horned grebe, tundra swan, American Kestrel, ring-necked pheasant, herring gull, horned lark, winter wren, red-winged blackbird, common grackle, swamp sparrow, and snow bunting.
Several relatively low counts for individual species were observed. Only three great blue herons were seen, fewest since 1980; the 137 American goldfinch counted were fewest since 1996; and 134 northern cardinals was fewest since 2000 when 123 were observed. Other species with relatively low numbers were Canada goose, common merganser, blue jay, brown creeper, European starling, American goldfinch, and dark-eyed junco.
Contrary as this may seem to be in comparison to the low total, more species were seen in unusually high numbers, a couple of new species highs were seen, and another high was tied.
Five ring-necked ducks set a new high. The 14 white-crowned sparrows clobbered the previous high of six. The 33 red-bellied woodpeckers tied a record high. A total of 14 adult bald eagles and six ruddy ducks established new second-highest counts. Four mute swans, 40 hairy woodpeckers, and five sharp-shinned hawks also tied for second-highest number ever seen on count day.
A total of 66 different bird species were observed, two more than the 10-year average, but eight fewer than the all-time highest number of species.
There were 47 field observers this year. These are the hearty souls who go out in any kind of weather with binoculars and field guides in hand to identify and count birds. These observers were in 29 different parties, one more than the 10-year average, and four fewer than the all-time highest number.
Field observers this year were Susie Zimmerman, Don Worley, Don Watts, Chuck Vevers, Tina Toole, Mike Toole, Emily Thomas, Matt Tenny, Bib Sundell, Quay Strandburg, Scott Stoleson, Theron Steffan, Randy Sliter, John Schultz, Chase Putnam, Bill Presnar, Tim Olsen, John Nobles, Ken Nicholson, Jeremy Nicholson, Marge Neel, and Amy Morrison.
Also serving as field observers were Greg Morell, Colin Morell, Rick Lyle, Ruth Lundin, Fran Lapinski, Ron Johnson, Rick Hutley, Nicholas Howard, Bill Hill, Jr., Phil Hampson, Callie Hampson, Bob Hampson, Mary Grishaver, Sylvia Grisez, Sherry Griffiths, Dennis Geiger, Brian Devore, Chuck Conaway, Greg Burkett, Mike Bleech, Jim Berry, Chad Atwood, Rachel Ashbaugh-Tenney, Terry Ashbaugh, and Ian Ashbaugh.