CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT 2009

This year, count day turned into a soft day for birding after a chilly start in the early AM. But this year’s CBC will be remembered for surprises. If the count of ‘ 03 is remembered as the year of the Gulls and the count of
‘07 the year of the Steller’s Jays, this year’s count will be remembered as the year of the Nuthatches.

We had a high count for each of the three species and the highest count for the total of the three species since the beginning of Aiken’s participation in the annual CBC. But that’s not all, Steve Brown saw 7 Hermit Thrushes in Sec#16 and, along with the one seen in Bear Creek Reg. Park, for a total of 8 Hermit Thrushes to be reported for this year’s CBC. Since 1950, single individuals have been reported in ‘77, ‘87, and ‘89, and in 1983 two were reported. The seven individuals were found in a habitat and at an elevation that in spring, could be their breeding area.

As for the Nuthatches: The three species have been included in our CBC regularly beginning with our first year of participation in National Audubon’s annual CBC. The previous high count for the Red-breasted Nuthatch was 149 in 1992. Our count this year was 347 with 150 and 110 counted by Dave Elwonger’s group in Cheyenne Mtn. State Park and Steve Brown in Section 16 respectively. The previous high count for the White-breasted Nuthatch was 66 in both ‘02 & ‘08 which is about half as many as the 127 total counted in each of the 14 major count areas. For the high count of Pygmy Nuthatches, I had to go back forty plus years to 1965 when 163 individuals were reported, three less than the 166 individuals seen this year. This is “old math”; with pencil and paper; I arrived at a total of 640 nuthatches. The previous high count of 249 was in 1987. Is this an astrological convergence?

Every year that I compile the results of our CBC, I’m reminded of the diversity of habitat that is included in the count circle and the evolving changes in land use. Yes! in looking back over past counts, there are changes in what is reported. For example, in the early years of the count it was common to report Tree Sparrows in the hundreds and we never missed reporting Wilson’s Snipe, but now we count a handful of Tree Sparrows and again this year we did not see a Wilson’s Snipe.

The importance of having census results from the entire count circle is reflected in the number of species that are reported in only one major count area. This year those species were: The Pine Grosbeaks and Gray Catbird seen by Judy Westcott at her feeder in the Pulpit Rock Area counted by Kelly Lipp and Laura Buckley.

The Blue-winged Teal, Buffleheads, and Common Grackles reported in the Prospect Lake-Peterson Field Area covered respectively by Dave Romero and Susan Craig’s party. The Great Blue Herons seen in the Pinello Ranch Area by Eldon Cornish’s party. The Greater Scaups, Bald Eagles, Harlan’s Hawk, and Herring Gulls counted by  Jim Mariner’s party at Big Johnson Res.

The pair of Juniper Titmice in the Cheyenne Mtn. State Park seen by Dave Elwonger’s party. The Ferruginous Hawk seen in Bear Creek Reg. Park headed-up by Paula Megorden. The Cedar Waxwings seen in the Broadmoor Area by Gary Conov
er’s counters. The Clark’s Nutcrackers, White-winged Junco, Red Crossbills, and Evening Grosbeaks in the Red Rocks-Crystal Park-Sec.16 Area lead by Patty Lovekin with help from Brad Steger and Steve Brown . The Northern Goshawk and Western Meadowlark reported by Bret Tennis from his groups in the Garden-of-the-Gods. The Merlin and the White-winged Dove in the Mounument Valley Park-Mesa Drainage Area by Sally Sorensen’s party.

The Greater Scaup, the Merlin, the White-winged Dove, and the Gray Catbird are unusual reportings for a CBC. In addition, we received a report of a sighting of a Black-throated Sparrow for which a written report has been submitted.

The Evening Grosbeak, although frequently reported in the past, is not seen in the same numbers (often over 100) or as often as in the past (one reported in ’99, three in ’00, eight in ’04).

Seldom do we have a party out early in the morning owling, but this year Brad Steger made the commitment and was rewarded with four Northern Saw-whet Owls. This is the 3rd time we’ve reported this species on a CBC: the first time was in 1986 and then again in 1998. Maybe this should be a regular feature of our CBC effort.

In addition to the White-breasted Nuthatch noted above, Red-tailed Hawks, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-billed Magpies, American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, European Starlings, Dark-eyed Juncos, and House Finches were reported in each of the major count areas.

In addition to the nuthatches noted above, this year high individual counts were recorded for the Hooded Merganser, Wild Turkey, Cooper’s Hawk, Eurasian Collared Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Scrub Jay, Mountain Chickadee, and
Canyon Wren.

With the more normal rain pattern of last spring and early summer, the food crop for the fall and winter is much improved. Juniper berries and Russian olives are in abundance, and the scrub oaks produced a good crop of acorns. The decrease in park maintenance has resulted in a healthy stand of native grasses in Monument Valley Park—perfect for wintering birds

This year 143 people, including 26 feeder counters and 36 volunteers from the Friends of the Garden of the Gods, supported the Christmas Count effort . Our thanks to each of you for your contribution to the success of the count, and especially to the count area leaders who make this happen each year. My measure of success is: all of the habitats in the count circle are adequately covered, ensuring that a representative count of the birds is reported.

A warm welcome is extended to Harley Ferguson, Dan Follett, Jackie Heyda, Janeen Igou, David Kuipers, Joy Lake, Susan Lueuser, Jim Mariner, Patrick Schaffner, Carol Wilcox and Karen Yuan who joined us in our counting for the first time.

A 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; and a thank you to Scott Morton for obtaining permission from The Navigators for a party to access Glen Eyrie on count day.

To each of you, our best wishes in this New Year.
Ben and Sally Sorensen

Birds Seen

Snow Goose 1
Cackling Goose 67
Canada Goose 4253
Lesser Canada Goose 277
Wood Duck 7
Gadwall 21
American Wigeon 771
Mallard 702
Blue-winged Teal 1
Northern Shoveler 5
Green-winged Teal 85
Redhead 3
Ring-necked Duck 34
Greater Scaup 4
Lesser Scaup 27
Bufflehead 6
Common Goldeneye 38
Hooded Merganser 43
Wild Turkey 60
Pied-billed Grebe 8
Great Blue Heron 2
Bald Eagle 2
Northern Harrier 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk 7
Cooper’s Hawk 8
Northern Goshawk 1
Accipter sp. 1
Red-tailed Hawk 75
—Harlan’s subsp. 1
Ferruginous Hawk 2
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Buteo sp. 1
Golden Eagle 3
American Kestrel 28
Merlin 1
Prairie Falcon 5
Virginia Rail 14
American Coot 71
Killdeer 8
Ring-billed Gull 515
Califronia Gull 4
Herring Gull 4
Rock Pigeon 1156
Eurasian Collared Dove 242
White-winged Dove 1
Mourning Dove 9
Great Horned Owl 7
Northern Saw-whet Owl 4
Belted Kingfisher 7
Downy Woodpecker 68
Hairy Woodpecker 21
Northern Flicker 186
—Red-shafted 91
Northern Shrike 3
Steller’s Jay 151
Blue Jay 146
Western Scrub Jay 446
Clark’s Nutcracker 4
Black-billed Magpie 574
American Crow 581
Common Raven 47
Horned Lark 95
Black-capped Chickadee 354
Mountain Chickadee 260
Juniper Titmouse 2
Bushtit 170
Red-breasted Nuthatch 347
White-breasted Nuthatch 127
Pygmy Nuthatch 166
Brown Creeper 24
Canyon Wren 12
Wren sp. (Winter Wren?) 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 7
Western Bluebird 17
Mountain Bluebird 4
Townsend’s Solitaire 55
Hermit Thrush 8
American Robin 450
Gray Catbird 1
European Starling 1054
Cedar Waxwing 12
Spotted Towhee 19
Black-throated Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 135
White-crowned Sparrow 36
Dark-eyed Junco 1090
—Slate-colored 97
—White-winged 1
—Oregon 96
—Pink-sided 333
—Gray-headed 178
Red-winged Blackbird 475
Western Meadowlark 1
Common Grackle 8
Pine Grosbeak 2
Cassin’s Finch 41
House Finch 1002
Red Crossbill 4
Evening Grosbeak 12
Pine Siskin 165
Lesser Goldfinch 13
American Goldfinch 64
House Sparrow 796

Total 18,991 individuals, 99 species, and 5 forms

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