CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT 2008

The weather on this Christmas Bird Count reminded us of the cold temperatures of last year. While Ken Pals had sunny weather at Fountain Creek Regional Park, Clark Wilder and Ann Adnat were treated to snow showers in Glen Eyrie. The official temperature range was 13 to 24 degrees, mostly sunny skies with low clouds in the north towards Monument and south along the Rampart Range. Snow cover was not a problem, with the ground generally free, yet some places had up to four inches.

The count differed from last year only in the lower number of species seen; 86 versus 106. The number of individual birds reported was about 100 less than last year. Notable features of the count include:

The return of Pine Siskins in large numbers; 550 is the most we’ve reported since 1992.

The number of robins is the second highest since the beginning of our records in 1950. (The highest number of robins, 1080, was reported in 1996.)

Over the last three years the number of lesser Canada Geese seen has been increasing. This year there were 310, made up of Richardson’s and Cackling.
The most significant feature of this count is the low number of sparrows reported, 55. This is by far the lowest number of sparrows on our count day ever, and the 8 Song Sparrows are the fewest number since 1950 (12 were seen in 1969).

For the second time in the past 30 years, we did not report a sighting of a Northern Shrike. And for the first time in 20 years, we did not flush a Wilson’s Snipe.
As for Jays, Juncos, and Chickadees, this has been a more representative count as in past years.

The following sixteen species were seen in only one count area: White-fronted Goose, Cackling Goose, Northern Pintail, Greater Scaup (thanks to Mark Peterson), Ferruginous Hawk, Merlin, Scaled Quail, Virginia Rail, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Horned Lark, American Dipper, Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, White-throated Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak (the 6th reporting of this species), and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (last reported in 1992). Surprisingly, only two species were seen in all of the count areas: American Crow and House Finch.

There were also possible sightings of a Fox Sparrow from two different areas, and a flycatcher, possibly a Western Wood Pewee. These sightings could not be verified. Both would have been very good birds to report. The Fox Sparrow has been reported five times on previous count days, the last time in 2005. As for the flycatcher, we have reported a Say’s Phoebe and a Western Kingbird in the past, but not an Empidomax or Wood Pewee.

A Spring freeze reduced the crop of acorns produced by the scrub oaks and may explain the lower number of Spotted Towhees seen this year. Despite our dry summer, there is an abundance of juniper berries and Russian olives that are available, and the ground feeding birds are finding grass seeds to feed on.

This year, 115 persons, including 25 feeder counters, supported the Christmas Count effort, along with volunteers from the Friends of the Garden of the Gods and the Starsmore Discovery Center. Our thanks to each of you for your part in the count, and to the area count leaders who made this all possible again.

A welcome is extended to Steve Castle, Fred and Margaret Cox, Dirk and Lydia Draper, George Gehrung, Ann Gerber, Robert and Aurora Glaze, Anna Hintz, Kathi and Bill Killough, Gary Koehn, Jennifer Lat, Percy Lopez, Ann Marin, Rolf Miller, Debbie Scofield, and Kathy and Don Stevens who joined us in our counting for the first time.

A big thank you to the Board of the Fountain Mutual Irrigation Company for again granting Aiken Audubon Society permission to access Big Johnson Reservoir on the day of the count.

• By Ben & Sally Sorensen

Birds Seen

** Seen on every count since 1950
** Seen during the week of the count.

Pied-billed Grebe 6
Great Blue Heron 2
White-fronted Goose 5
Snow Goose 3
Canada Goose 4124
Lesser Canada Goose 303
Cackling Goose 7
Gadwall 47
American Wigeon 556
Mallard* 1243
Northern Shoveler 35
Northern Pintail 12
American Green-winged Teal 47
Canvasback 13
Redhead 3
Ring-necked Duck 11
Greater Scaup 2
Lesser Scaup 24
Bufflehead 3
Common Goldeneye 23
Hooded Merganser 17
Common Merganser 21
Bald Eagle 4
Northern Harrier 4
Sharp-shinned Hawk 12
Cooper’s Hawk 4
Northern Goshawk 3
Red-tailed Hawk 39
Ferruginous Hawk 1
Golden Eagle 3
American Kestrel 17
Merlin 1
Prairie Falcon 6
Raptor sp. 2
Wild Turkey 42
Scaled Quail 3
Virginia Rail 1
American Coot 83
Killdeer 8
Ring-billed Gull 34
Gull sp. (Herring Gull?) 4
Rock Pigeon* 1338
Eurasian Collared Dove 126
Mourning Dove 4
Great Horned Owl 4
Belted Kingfisher 7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 41
Hairy Woodpecker* 14
Northern Flicker* 148
Yelow-shafted 1
Red-shafted 87
Intergrade 1
Steller’s Jay* 116
Blue Jay 54
Western Scrub Jay* 158
Black-billed Magpie* 311
American Crow* 568
Common Raven 67
Chihuahuan Raven** 1
Horned Lark* 100
Black-capped Chickadee* 232
Mountain Chickadee* 136
Bushtit 234
Red-breasted Nuthatch 30
White-breasted Nuthatch 66
Pygmy Nuthatch* 60
Brown Creeper* 4
American Dipper 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 2
Western Bluebird 53
Mountain Bluebird 1
Townsend’s Solitaire 87
American Robin* 978
European Starling* 1282
American Pipit 3
Cedar Waxwing 25
Spotted Towhee* 80
American Tree Sparrow* 28
Song Sparrow* 8
White-throated Sparrow 3
White-crowned Sparrow 16
Dark-eyed Junco* 797
Slate-colored 75
White-winged 2
Oregon 125
Pink-sided 131
Gray-headed 121
Black-headed Grosbeak 1
Red-winged Blackbird* 134
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch 4
Cassin’s Finch 19
House Finch* 1230
Pine Siskin* 550
Lesser Goldfinch (black-backed) 11
American Goldfinch* 88
House Sparrow* 586

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