CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT 2010

I did not know how this count would turn out; we have experienced a dry year (a little over 8 inches short of our average precipitation). A warmer-than-normal fall with led up to count day. Sally and I took a trial run through the area we count, looking for bird species, and checking on the available food sources. We could not help noticing how thin the food crop looked. In examining the grasses and borbs for seeds, we found that many had not developed, and those that did were shriveled up. The fruit on the Three-leaf Sumac was ample, but seemed dry and unpalatable. As for bird species, we ended up with about 21, and not many individuals. Where we saw bird feeders ,they were not being maintained; most did not have seeds.

The morning of the count day greeted us with fog that burned off about 10:30, and probably lasted until 11 in parts of the count circle. With the clearing, the birds became more active and we warmed up. After finding both green-backed and black-backed Lesser Goldfinches, and a Cooper’s Hawk on the ground trying to intimidate a group of House Sparrows hunkered down at the base of a three-leaf Sumac bush in Holland Park, we knew we had an interesting beginning. To our surprise, fourteen Northern Shovelers were crowded together in a Y-shaped bit of open water on Pie View Reservoir.

The count day activities resulted in a lower individual count than we’ve experienced in the past few years, but a respectable number of species, 95. I was prepared for the headline species that might be counted at the northern part of Fountain Creek Regional Park. I was not prepared for the Black-and-White Warbler Jo Romero saw at her birdbath, nor the Empidomax (Willow Flycatcher) seen by Melissa Walker and Mark Pleimann at the Garden of the Gods visitor center. Both of these species are new to our count.

This year only two species, the Black-capped Chickadee and Dark-eyed Junco, were seen in all count areas. The Downy Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch were seen in all but one count area. Red-tailed Hawk, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Black-billed Magpie, European Starling, and House Finch were seen in all but two count areas.

Of the 95 species seen, 22 were seen in only one count area. Of these 22, 13 were represented by a single individual. In addition, one of these species, the Cassin’s Finch (that has been seen on all previous counts since 1950) was seen by Marsha Simms at her feeder. A single Common Grackle was seen in the Patty Jewett – Nancy Lewis Park count area by Ann Gerber and Mary Mourar.

The only count area to report Blue-winged Teal and Bufflehead was the Memorial Park – Prospect Lake area counted by Dave Romero. This is the 14th time a Blue-winged Teal has been seen since our first count in 1950.

Susan Craig and her party saw the Long-eared Owl and Cackling Goose in the Peterson Field count area. This is the 9th reporting of a Long-eared Owl; the last was in 2004.

Bob Landgraf’s party, counting the Mule Farm – Pinello Ranch area, recorded the 12 Western Meadowlarks. For me, the Western Meadowlark is an indicator species of the urbanization of our count circle. The first ten years of our CBC counts (1950 – 59), the average count was 103 individuals. During the last ten year period (2001 – 10), the average was three.

Scaled Quail and Western Grebes were seen at Big Johnson Reservoir by Sam Johnson’s group. For the Western Grebe, this is the highest count since this species was first reported on a CBC in 1990.

The northern part of Fountain Creek Regional Park,counted by Ken Pals and Bob Bonestroo, resulted in another new species to the count, a Pine Warbler. In addition, a Winter Wren, (also seen in ’55, ’75, ’88, and ’06), and a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle subspecies), seen for the 7th time, were also observed. What wasn’t seen during the count period, but was seen before and after count week, was the Ovenbird.

Richard Bunn and Rick Clawges and their group at Fort Carson reported our only Bald Eagle of the day. Paula Megordon’s group saw the only Golden-crowned Kinglets, at Bear Creek Canyon, part of Bear Creek Regional Park. The Broadmoor area, counted by a group led by Gary Conover, saw the single Wood Duck and, uncommon for our CGC, Band-tailed Pigeons. The Hermit Thrush seen in the North Cheyenne Canyon – Upper Skyway area by Marty Wolf’s group is reported for only the fourth time, the last in 1989.

The lone Canyon Towhee of the count was seen by Chris, Martha, Alita, and Francisco Alvarez in Red Rocks Park, a part of the count area led by Patty Lovekin. Red Crossbills are another species, like Bushtits, where you don’t see just one, but that’s what Virginia Carlson and Sue Miller saw in the Fountain Creek area (from Manitou Springs to Colorado Springs). This is the best area in our count circle for finding the American Dipper, and again this year they found one, but not the only one. Dave Romero also found one in his area.

In addition to the flycatcher mentioned above, the Garden of the Gods yielded the sole Northern Shrike, Gray Jay, and Canyon Wren for our count. And last but not least, there were the Lesser Goldfinches mentioned above.

The counts that I’ve reported on always have a number of species that are seen in only one count area. The range is from 20 – 25 species. As an attempt to explain this, I submit the following: The elevation of our count circle runs from a low of about 5,700 feet at the northern part of Fountain Creek Regional Park, to a high of over 10,800 feet, the elevation of Mt. Arthur. This includes ten of the habitats on Aiken Audubon’s Birds of El Paso City Check List. The only habitats not included are the two above 11,000 feet (Alpine Transition and Tundra). The only habitat not counted on a regular basis is Mountain Parks and Meadows. The rest are counted every year.

Other interesting features of the count are: The seven Cooper’s Hawks are the most seen on a count; the previous high was five in ’89, ’95 and ’07. The American Kestrel (seen in all but three areas) total of 35 individuals was the highest count since the 30 in ’07. The only Buteo species seen on our count was the Red-tailed Hawk.

Not a surprise was another high count for the Eurasian Collared Dove; we recorded another high count of411, and probably will see 500 next year. This year’s count of Northern Flickers was over fifty more than the previous high of 277 reported just last year. The 241 Mountain Chickadees surpasses the previous high of 211 in 1987.

Last year we reported high counts for each of the Nuthatches, but this year there were considerably fewer Red- and White-breasted Nuthatches, yet the 256 Pygmy Nuthatches is 90 more than last year’s high count.

Other numbers of interest were Green-winged Teal (17 in 1994), Virginia Rail (14 in 1997 and ten in 1998), Downy Woodpecker (64 in 2004), and Hairy Woodpecker (26 reported in 1984).

The counts of Mallards and American Wigeons are low when compared to over 1000 individuals each in the recent past. The Ring-necked Duck is usually reported in higher numbers, as is the Wilson’s Snipe and American Goldfinch.

This year 131 persons, including 26 feeder counters, plus 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. A special thank you to the count area leaders who make this happen each year.

A warm welcome is extended to Adam Arguello, Sophia Bowen, Chris Brindle, Brent Connell, Courtney Connell, Barry Cooper, April Estep, Joan Ferguson, Diane French, Jeff Gordon, Steve Harris, Joy Hellman, Dani and Eric Hill, Dave Kosley, Kathy Miller, Bob Miracle, Dean Mueller, Michele Mukatis, Charlene Quilty, Tom and Katherine Oliphant, Brian Ross, Doug Rouse, Ralph Unruh, Dick Wenham, and Dan Zook, who joined us in our counting for the first time. And a welcome back to Mary Mourar, Roger Tucker and Paul Young.

A thank you to the Board of the Fountain Mutual Irrigation Company for again granting Aiken Audubon permission to access Big Johnson Reservoir on the da of the count; and a thank you to Scott Morton for making arrangements with 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

Participants

Debbie Ackley, Deborah Adams, Marta, Chris, Alita and Francisco Alvarez, Adam Arguello, Larry and Carol Arnold, JoAnn Bader, Debbie Barnes, Donna Becker, Terry Berger, Bob Bonestroo, Kent Borges, Sophia, Judy, and Penelope Bowen, Dana and Eric Breier, Toni Brevillier, Chris Brindle, Steve Brown, Risë Foster-Bruder and John Bruder, Richard Bunn, Sandra Callnan, Charlie Campbell, Virginia Carlson, Steve Castle, Bev Cellini, Rick Clawges, Chip Clouse, Brent and Courtney Connell, Gary Conover, Barry Cooper, Eldon Cornish, Susan Craig, Bobby Day, Stephanie DiCenzo, Don and Gerry Downs, April Estep, Bill Evans, Harley and Joan Ferguson, Dan Follett, Diane French, Marsha Garcia, Ann Gerber, Jeff Gordon, Eleanor Griffith, Pat Grove, Steve Harris, Joy Hellman, Jackie Heyda, Dani and Eric Hill, Dick Holiday, Peg Hunter, Janeen Igou, Sam Johnson, Dave Kosley, Hans and Dorothy Krimm, David Kuipers, Bob Landgraf, Barbara Landgraf, Jennifer Last, Kelly Lipp, Percy Lopez, Patty Lovekin, John Lovekin, Susan Lueuser, Mark and Mindy Mahler, Gene and Betty Lour Maton, John and Virginia Maynard, Jennie McGuckian, Sally McGuill, Michele McMurray, Paula Megorden, Don Meyer, Kathy Miller, Ralph Miller, Sue Miller, Bob Miracle, Ed Morran, Tom and Delma Mou, Mary Mourar, Dean Mueller, Michele Mukatis, Kent Nelson, Katharine and Tom Oliphant, Ken Pals, Betty Peterson, Don Peterson, Mark Pleimann, Charlene Quilty, Chuck and Jo Romero, Dave Romero, Brian Ross, Doug Rouse, Chris Schoenfelder, Marsha Simms, Ben Sorensen, Sally Sorensen, Bret Tennis, Roger Tucker, Diane Turechek, Jerry, Diana and Ralph Unruh, Don VanHorn, Melissa Walker, Jim and Mickey Wallace, Dick and P.J. Wenham, Judy Westcott, Carol Wilcox, Marty Wolf, Paul Young, Dan Zook and Jane Hunter-Zook.

Area count leaders are indicated in bold type.

Birds Seen

Cackling Goose 2
Canada Goose 3201
Wood Duck 1
Gadwall 43
American Wigeon 357
*Mallard 427
Blue-winged Teal 5
Northern Shoveler 78
Northern Pintail 18
Green-winged Teal 61
Canvasback 14
Redhead 11
Ring-necked Duck 5
Lesser Scaup 30
Bufflehead 12
Common Goldeneye 43
Hooded Merganser 13
Scaled Quail 10
Wild Turkey 32
Western Grebe 18
Great Blue Heron 4
Bald Eagle 1
Northern Harrier 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk 12
Cooper’s Hawk 7
Northern Goshawk 2
Accipter sp. 1
Red-tailed Hawk 788
Golden Eagle 3
American Kestrel 35
Prairie Falcon 4
Virginia Rail 11
American Coot 9
Killdeer 7
Wilson’s Snipe 4
Ring-billed Gull 46
*Rock Pigeon 1397
Band-tailed Pigeon 7
Eurasian Collared Dove 411
Mourning Dove 15
Great Horned Owl 4
Long-eared Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 5
*Downy Woodpecker 60
*Hairy Woodpecker 25
*Northern Flicker 133
—Red-shafted 197
—-intergrade 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
Northern Shrike 7
Gray Jay 1
*Steller’s Jay 64
Blue Jay 71
*Western Scrub Jay 256
Clark’s Nutcracker 10
*Black-billed Magpie 501
*American Crow 485
Common Raven 105
*Horned Lark 109
*Black-capped Chickadee 293
*Mountain Chickadee 241
Juniper Titmouse 5
Bushtit 192
Red-breasted Nuthatch 20
White-breasted Nuthatch 100
*Pygmy Nuthatch 256
*Brown Creeper 30
Canyon Wren 2
Winter Wren 1
American Dipper 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Western Bluebird 29
Mountain Bluebird 4
Townsend’s Solitaire 86
Hermit Thrush 1
*American Robin 370
*European Starling 1687
American Pipit 2
Cedar Waxwing 36
Yellow-rumped Warbler
—Myrtle subspecies 1
Pine Warbler 1
Black-and-White Warbler 1
*Spotted Towhee 81
Canyon Towhee 1
*American Tree Sparrow 72
*Song Sparrow 61
White-crowned Sparrow 91
*Dark-eyed Junco 870
—Slate-colored 55
—Oregon 80
—Pink-sided 160
—Gray-headed 104
*Red-winged Blackbird 586
Western Meadowlark 12
Common Grackle 1
Pine Grosbeak 2
Cassin’s Finch 8
*House Finch 1491
Red Crossbill 1
Evening Grosbeak 12
*Pine Siskin 21
Lesser Goldfinch 8
*American Goldfinch 39
*House Sparrow 535

Seen during the week of the count: Eastern Bluebird

*Seen on every count since 1950

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