Low numbers in 2017 Warren County Christmas Bird Count

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Never before have there been so few birds at my feeders during December, making me wonder if something was wrong with the feeders. Nothing was wrong, it seems. The 75th Warren County Christmas Bird Count recorded unusually low totals for some species, 18 species which have been seen at least in 15 counts were missing, and some species were spotted for the first time in several years.

The result was a lower than average total number of birds, but an average number of species seen. The species count was 62 this year, compared to the average over the past 10 years of 63 species. A total of 6,490 birds were counted. Ten-year average is 7,484 birds.

As usual, it was the weather that was behind the counts. There had not been enough bad weather to drive the typical snow birds into this area. Some birds that leave just before the arrival of winter birds had left the area.

A count of 37 American goldfinch in their drab winter colors was the lowest number seen since the 1969 count. Average for the past 10 years has been 69 per year.

Only two pine siskin were seen. The 10-year average is 245 per year.

A count of 200 black-capped chickadees was the fewest seen since 2002, tufted titmouse numbered 41 which was the fewest since 1996, and 72 white-breasted nuthatches were the lowest number since the 1972 count.

A count of 50 downy woodpeckers was lowest since the 2002 count. All woodpecker species were under their 10-year average counts.

A chipping sparrow and a white-crowned sparrow were the first of their species seen since 2011, and 14 white-throated sparrows were the first seen since 1994 even though they have been seen in 59 Warren County counts. Both song sparrow and American tree sparrow were well fewer than the 10-year averages.

Then there were surprises like the first hummingbird ever seen in the local count, and a white-winged scoter that has been seen in just three Warren County counts.

Not quite as surprising but nearly as unusual were three canvasbacks that have been seen in just five local counts, and two greater scaup which have been seen locally only four years.

Only 33 bufflehead were counted, the lowest number since the 2006 count. The 10-year average is 75 bufflehead.

A total of 18 birds that have been seen in at least 15 counts were missing. These were horned lark, American black duck, wood duck, ruddy duck, rough-legged hawk, American kestrel, herring gull, red-breasted nuthatch, winter wren, American robin, ruby-crowned kinglet, yellow-rumped warbler, common grackle, evening grosbeak, common redpoll, field sparrow, swamp sparrow and snow bunting.

For the 2017 count, 42 observers were afield. They were Ian Ashbaugh, Chad Atwood, Brittany Baglia, Jim Berry, Mike Bleech, Greg Burkett, Chuck Conaway, Brian Devore, Run Dutton, Duke Fiscus, Sherry Griffiths, Colter Johnson, Ron Johnson, Ron Johnson, Lara Larson, Bob Long, Ruth Lundin, Greg Lyle, Rick Lyle, Jay Mengel.

Also, Greg Morell, Amy Morrison, Marge Neel, Elizabeth Nicholson, Jeremy Nicholson, Roseanna Nicholson, John Nobles, Will Novitske, Tim Olsen, Tessa Rhinehart, John Shultz, Randy Sliter, Terry Steffan, Scott Stoleson, Kathy Stevens, Jeff Tome, Mike Toole, Tina Toole, Charlie Vevers, Don Watts, Don Worley, Susie Zimmerman.

Area birders should be watching for an invasion of both snowy owls and great gray owls this winter due to low lemming numbers in their home ranges. A few snowy owls have been seen in the region.