CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT 2011

Editors note: This is the last year that Ben and Sally Sorensen are running Aiken’s Christmas Bird Count. We want to take this opportunity to thank them both for all their hard work over the years, and a job well done.

We could not have asked for a better day for our Christmas Bird Count. After a cool start in the morning, we had a warm day with a clear sky and no wind.

The first birds Sally and I saw were three raptors perched in the cottonwoods along the creek south of Upper Sinton Pond. They were probably warming themselves in the early morning sun, but changed their minds on our approach. A Cooper’s Hawk, a very dark Red-tailed Hawk, and another Red-tailed Hawk reluctantly gave up their warming for a short first sortie of the day.

For Sally and I, we continued along the creek and the edge of the pond looking, looking, looking. “Look, in the brush along the old fence line! Sparrows, finches, a few juncos and a couple of robins in the trees… Oh! There goes a flicker toward the pond.” The day had begun for us as well as for the other parties counting birds in the field and at feeders this day.

The result: 17,142 individual birds, and 90 species plus six forms. During count week, six Great-tailed Grackles were seen at the pond by the Doubletree Hotel just off I-25. Five Greater White-fronted Geese and a Red-breasted Merganser were seen at Prospect Lake as well as a hybrid Cackling/Ross’s Goose. The Chihuahuan Raven was seen the following day at Garden of the Gods Rd. and Centennial Blvd.

The highest number of species seen in a count area was 42, reported in the Mule Farm/Pinello Ranch area by the party led by Eldon Cornish. The highest number of individuals were seen in the Pike View Reservoir/Monument Valley Park area, counted by Bill Evans, Allen & Theresa Burns, Sandra McNew, Carey Harrington, and Sally and I.

This year Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Flickers, Black-billed Magpies, American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos, and House Finches were seen in all of the major count areas. Canada Geese, Rock Pigeons, Eurasian Collared Doves, Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, White-breasted Nuthatches, and European Starlings were seen in all but one of the major count areas.

Other sightings were as follows: 19 species were seen in only one count area; eight were represented by a single individual.

The Snow Goose, Long-tailed Duck (the 7th individual seen on our count, and the first since 2002), seven Canvasbacks, and five Mountain Bluebirds were seen by Chris Schoenfelder, Jennie McGuckian, and Bob Miracle in the Quail Lake/Stratton Meadows area.

Don Meyer, Susan Craig, and Ron and Jeannie Mitchell reported our only Scaled Quail in the area of Petersen Field and the Colorado Springs airport.

The four Great Blue Herons and eleven Killdeer were tallied by Eldon Cornish, Sue Luenser, Diane French, Terry Berger, and Jerry Unruh in the Mule Farm/Pinello Ranch area.

The lone Ross’s Goose was confirmed by Jim Mariner, Sam Johnson, Scott Gavin, and Paul Young after checking the field guides, observing the bird, and discussing the alternatives. It, along with the two Ruddy Ducks, the nine Western Grebes, two Bald Eagles, and five Virginia Rails were seen at Big Johnson Reservoir and Fountain Valley School. The only Lesser Goldfinches (3) were seen at Bear Creek Regional Park, counted by Ken Pals, Paula Megorden, Bob Bonestroo and 20 volunteers and friends.

A lone Northern Mockingbird was found by Marty Wolf and Harley and Joan Ferguson in North Cheyenne Canyon. This is the 7th time this species has been reported; the last time was in 2005.

Steve Brown saw our only Merlin and Band-tailed Pigeon in Section 16, while Patty Lovekin’s group came up with a Canyon Towhee in the Crystal Hills-Red Rocks area. (Susan Craig had given us a pre-count alert of the presence of the Canyon Towhee.)

The Glen Eyrie area, counted by Sue Weilgopolan, Scott Morton, Clark Wilder, Ann Adnet, Percy Lopez and Diane Turchek reported our lone Gray Jay and the seven Canyon Wrens.

Kaye LaFreniere does a count for Cornell University’s Project Feeder Watch, and shared with us her observations on count day. The Canyon Towhee is a regular visitor in her yard and on count day, an adult pair with two juveniles were right on schedule. They have been present since fall, and for the adult pair, this is the third brood they nurtured during the past breeding season. Although her feeder count is just outside our count circle, I like ot include these observations in the report.

Steve Brown is another person who shares his observations with us. This year he had an immature Northern Shrike in his yard on count day. Just as with the Canyon Towhee, these are not species regularly seen on the Colorado Springs CBC.

Thanks to the efforts of Kelly Lipp, Laura Buckley, Risë Foster-Bruder, John Bruder, Jackie Heyda, Leslie Holzmann, and the group of birders that counted in Glen Eyrie, this year’s total count of American Robins—1,360—is the highest number of robins every reported on our CBC. The previous high was 1,080, seen in 1996. The number of Townsend’s Solitaires, 165, is the second highest number for our CBC, the highest being 170 counted in 2001. And the 54 Mourning Doves counted surpassed the previous count (39 in 2006) for this species.

Given the urbanization of our count circle, I looked back at the first ten years of our count and found only one Mourning Dove reported in 1053. This species was not reported again until 1963. The Canada Goose was not tallied until 1973. This year’s total of 4,591 individuals is the second-highest count; in 2006, 8,033 Canada Geese were counted. That was the year Steven Vaughan, Sam Johnson, Paul Young, and Kaye LaFreniere accounted for 3,980 of that total, at Big Johnson Reservoir. The Northern Pintail duck is reported on most counts, but this year’s total of 43 is exceeded only by the 1964 number of 75.

The Harris’s Sparrow is again being reported. The first reporting was in 1964, the last time in 1995, and the most ever was 7 in 1986.

Also of special note:

  • The American Kestrel and the Great Horned Owl have both been seen on all of our counts except for the first two years—1950 and 1951.
  • Gulls have been reported every year since 1995, but only one or two individuals were reported in six of the first 45 years.
  • Rock Pigeons were not counted on a regular basis until 1974. Prior to that year, their status was the topic for an annual discussion—are they wild or domestic birds?
  • This year is only the second time that neither a Ruby-crowned or Golden-crowned Kinglet was reported. The first time was in 1970.

This year 152 persons, including 29 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, and a special thank you to the count area leaders who make this happen each year.

A warm welcome is extended to John Atkinson, Diana Beatty, Nancy Bentley, Tamie Bulow, Allen and Theresa Burns, Kent and Sue Elmer, Scott Gavin, Stephanie Goode, Carey Harrington, Elwald, Lapioli, Adam Ozier, Erin Parks, Kelly Scarborough, Leslie Sheley, and Jenyva Turner, who joined us in our counting for the first time.

Thank you to the board of the Fountain Mutual Irrigation Company for again granting Aiken Audubon permission to access Big Johnson Reservoir on the day of the count, and a thank you to Scott Morton for making arrangements with the Navigators for a party to access Glen Eyrie.

To each of you, our best wishes in this New Year.

Ben and Sally Sorensen

Participants

Debbie Ackley, Deborah Adams, Ann Adnet, Martha, Chris, Alita, and Francisco Alvarez, Larry and Carol Arnold, John Atkinson, David Barber, Diana Beatty, Donna Becker, Nancy Bentley, Terry Berger, Bob Bonestroo, Sophia, Judy, and Penelope Bowen, Dana and Eric Breier, Steve Brown, Risë Foster-Bruder and John Bruder, Laura Buckley, Tamie Bulow, Allen and Theresa Burns, Sandra Callnan, Charlie Campbell, Virginia Carlson, Steve Castle, Bev Cellini, Rick Clawges, Brent and Courtney Connell, Gary Conover, Sally Conover, Barry and Pat Cooper, Eldon Cornish, Susan Craig, Don and Gerry Downs, Dirk and Jeanie Draper, April Estep, Ken and Sue Elmer, Bill Evans, Harley and Joan Ferguson, Diane French, Marsha Garcia, Scott Cavin, Ann Gerber, Steve Getty, Stephanie Goode, Bob Goycoolea, Pat Grove, Carey Harrington, Steve Harris, Joy Hellman, Jackie Heyda, Doris Hiatt, Warren Hill, Linda Hodges, Dick Holliday, Leslie Holzmann, Peg Hunter, Janeen Igou, Sam Johnson, Kathi Killough, Marlon and Charlon King, Gary Koehn, John Koshak, Hans and Dorothy Krimm, David Kuipers, Cyndy Kulp, Kaye LaFreniere, Eswald Lapioli, Jennifer Last, Kelly Lipp, Percy Lopez, Patty Lovekin, John Lovekin, Susan Lueuser, Mark and Mindy Mahler, Jim Mariner, Gene and Betty Lou Maton, Jennie McGuckian, Paula Megorden, Sandra McNew, Don Meyer, Kathy Miller, Pam Miller, Ralph Miller, Sue Miller, Bob Miracle, Rom and Jeannie Mitchell, Ed Morran, Scott Morton, Tom and Delma Mou, Mary Mourar, Dean Mueller, Michele Mukatis, Nina Ogilvie, Adam Ozier, Ken Pals, Erin Parks, Betty Peterson, Don Peterson, Mark Pleimann, Carrie and JoAnne Renaud, Jo Romero, Dave Romero, Kelli Scarborough, Rosemary Scheuering, Chris Schoenfelder, Debbie Scofield, Leslie Scheley, Susan Simmons, Marsha Simms, Ben Sorensen, Sally Sorensen, Kathy and Don Stevens, Bret Tennis, Sue Thomas, Diane Turechek, Jenyva Turner, Jerry Unruh, Don VanHorn, Jim and Mickey Wallace, Sue Weilgopolan, P.J. Wenham, Judy Westcott, Carol Wilcox, Clark Wilder, Marty Wolf, and Paul Young.
Area count leaders are indicated in bold face type.

Birds Seen

Snow Goose 1
Ross’s Goose 1
Cackling Goose 12
Canada Goose 4591
Gadwall 47
American Wigeon 681
*Mallard 527
Blue-winged Teal 3
Northern Shoveler 45
Northern Pintail 43
Green-winged Teal 34
Canvasback 7
Redhead 8
Ring-necked Duck 12
Lesser Scaup 16
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 6
Common Goldeneye 27
Common Merganser 23
Hooded Merganser 49
Ruddy Duck 2
Wild Turkey 102
Scaled Quail 12
Western Grebe 9
Great Blue Heron 4
Northern Harrier 7
Bald Eagle 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 8
Cooper’s Hawk 5
Northern Goshawk 3
Red-tailed Hawk 86
American Kestrel 20
Merlin 1
Prairie Falcon 3
Virginia Rail 5
American Coot 19
Killdeer 11
Ring-billed Gull 108
*Rock Pigeon 1208
Band-tailed Pigeon 1
Eurasian Collared Dove 272
Mourning Dove 54
Great Horned Owl 8
Belted Kingfisher 4
*Downy Woodpecker 53
*Hairy Woodpecker 10
*Northern Flicker
—Red-shafted 261
—-intergrade 2
Northern Shrike 4
Gray Jay 1
*Steller’s Jay 28
Blue Jay 59
*Western Scrub Jay 316
Clark’s Nutcracker 6*Black-billed Magpie 484
*American Crow 400
Common Raven 74
*Horned Lark 64
*Black-capped Chickadee 336
*Mountain Chickadee 140
Bushtit 158
Red-breasted Nuthatch 59
White-breasted Nuthatch 62
*Pygmy Nuthatch 122
*Brown Creeper 13
Canyon Wren 7
Wren sp. 1
American Dipper 2
Western Bluebird 33
Mountain Bluebird 5
Townsend’s Solitaire 165
*American Robin 1360
Northern Mockingbird 1
*European Starling 965
Cedar Waxwing 21
*Spotted Towhee 92
Canyon Towhee 1
*American Tree Sparrow 147
*Song Sparrow 75
Harris’s Sparrow 3
White-crowned Sparrow 97
*Dark-eyed Junco 838
—Slate-colored 32
—Oregon 47
—Pink-sided 149
—Gray-headed 47
*Red-winged Blackbird 238
Western Meadowlark 19
Common Grackle 2
Cassin’s Finch 5
*House Finch 1540
Red Crossbill 5
*Pine Siskin 44
Lesser Goldfinch 3
*American Goldfinch 51
*House Sparrow 407

Seen during the week of the count: Greater White-fronted Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, Chihuahuan Raven, Great-tailed Grackle

*Seen on every count since 1950

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