Sandhill Crane Soaring - Photo Earl Harrison

Count Summary

On December 20, 78 observers sponsored by CAS spent the day counting birds in different areas of Columbus, in a socially-distanced fashion!  Unlike the prior year, we had cold enough weather to drive in a good diversity of waterfowl, but not cold enough to kill off quite a few unusual landbird stragglers. Twenty-seven teams were still able to put up totals of 84 species and 17,752 individual birds, with quite a few rarities for the Count

Count Date: December 20, 2020; 6:00 a.m. To 5:00 p.m.     Temp. 30-43 ºF.  Wind SW 0-3 mph   Still water mostly open, moving water open.  A.M. cloudy with very early drizzle;  P.M. overcast.  Observers: 81 in the field in 24-27 teams, 2 at feeders.   Total party hours:  150 (123 on foot, 26 in cars, 1 on bike, 2 owling).  Total Party miles: 311 (124 on foot,  185 in cars, 2 on bike, 12 owling)

Species Totals

Pied-billed Grebe – 10;  Double-crested Cormorant – 26;  Great Blue Heron – 46;  Mute Swan – 13, Trumpeter Swan – 1 (JM,BM,JF);  Canada Goose – 1478; Wood Duck – 28;  Black Duck – 34;  Mallard – 1046;  N. Shoveler – 5; Gadwall – 105;  Green-winged Teal – 10;  Ring-necked Duck – 109;  Redhead – 30;  Canvasback – 1;  Bufflehead – 47;  Common Merganser – 1;  Hooded Merganser – 169; Wild Turkey –  62;  American Coot – 1; Sandhill Crane – 5 (LB, LP);  Sharp-shinned Hawk – 4;  Cooper’s Hawk – 24;  N. Harrier – 2; Red-shouldered Hawk – 6;  Red-tailed Hawk – 43;  Bald Eagle – 8;  Peregrine – 2;  Merlin – 7;  American Kestrel – 8;  Ring-billed Gull – 297;  Rock Dove –1137;  Mourning Dove – 448;  Great Horned Owl – 3;  Screech Owl – 1; Barred Owl – 6;  Belted Kingfisher – 23;  Red-headed Woodpecker – 12;  Red-bellied Woodpecker – 196;  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 14;  Downy Woodpecker – 265;  Hairy Woodpecker – 22;  N.Flicker – 56;  Pileated Woodpecker – 14;  Blue Jay – 496;  American Crow – 385;  Horned Lark – 26; Carolina Chickadee – 565;  Tufted Titmouse – 201;  White-breasted Nuthatch – 229;  Red-breasted Nuthatch – 13; Brown Creeper – 41;  Winter Wren – 6;  Carolina Wren – 212;  Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 5;  Golden-crowned Kinglet – 34;  Eastern Bluebird – 151;  Hermit Thrush – 4; American Robin – 2048;  Varied Thrush – 1 (LS);  Gray Catbird – 1 (JK,BS, et al.);  N.Mockingbird – 31;  European Starling – 4042;  Cedar Waxwing – 11(low);  Yellow-rumped Warbler – 23;  Northern Cardinal – 810;  Eastern Towhee – 42;  Fox Sparrow – 1;  American Tree Sparrow – 43;  Field Sparrow – 3;  Song Sparrow – 234;  Lincoln’s Sparrow – 1 (IS);  Swamp Sparrow – 17;  White-throated Sparrow – 790;  White-crowned Sparrow – 4;  Dark-eyed Junco – 380;  Rusty Blackbird – 4;  Red-winged Blackbird – 14;  Common Grackle – 11;  Brown-headed Cowbird – 12; House Finch – 568;  American Goldfinch – 365;  Pine Siskin – 35;  House Sparrow – 709

Totals:   84 species,  18,363  individuals

Birds seen Count Period, but not Count Day:  Snow GooseCackling Goose,  Herring Gull, American Pipit,  Lapland Longspur,  Chestnut-sided Warbler (JP),  Pine Warbler


Julie Aldridge, Mark Anstaett,  Jenny Bowman, Susan Braunig, Ed & Sheila Bremmer, Linda Brenner, John & Gerry Brevoort, Jeremy & Isaac Budd, Rose Conrad, Mary Cownter, Tim Daniel, Brad, Lindsay, & Poppy Deering, Amy Densborn, Alex Eberts, John Finn, Tim Fitzpatrick, Andy Foster, Diana Fowler,  Brad Gambill, Michael Goldman, Jeff Grabmeier, Paul Graham, Kay Griesen, Julie Hallenbeck, Neena Harfmann, Bill Heck, Corinna Honscheid, David Kelley, William Kinkaid,  Jonathan Knape, Victoria Koroleva, Jennifer Kuehn,  Donna Kuhn, Cindy Lanese, Noelle,Anthony & James Lanhart,  Kristan Leedy Finn,  Beth Lenoble, Bruce & Helen Lindsay, Heather Luedecke, Karen & Frank Martens, Bernie Master,  Jim McCormac,  Darrel McGrath, Bob McNulty, Joe Meara, Karl Mechem,  Janet Meier,  Dick & Kathy Miller, Susan Miller, Jen Moore,  James Muller,  David Neal Jr.,  Jason Parrish,  Lori Patterson, Anna Rose,  Robert Royse, Marc, Mary, & Zac Schroeder, Marcia Scott, Andy Sewell, Colleen Sharkey, Katelyn Shelton, Irina Shulgina. Bruce Simpson, Lynn Singleton, Shaune Skinner, Lynn Singleton, Leslie Sours, Rob Thorn (compiler), Carl & Karen Winstead, Stephanie West, Doug Whitman, Stephanie Williams


Unlike last year, this year had cold weather just before the Count, but Count day was actually not too bad.  The mix of uncertain weather and open water seemed to draw in waterfowl this year, and we wound up with 18 species (20 for Count week).  Included among the haul were some unusual species, including 1 Trumpeter Swan on a private quarry (Jim McCormac, Bernie Master, John Finn), another crowd of 90+ Gadwall at the Sewage Treatment Plant (John Finn, et al.), 5 Northern Shovelers hiding in an Easton-area pond (Jason Parrish),  10 Green-winged Teal along the Blacklick Greenway (Linda Benner, Lori Patterson), a flock of Redhead at Quarry Lakes Apartment Pond (Colleen Sharkey, et al,), a lone Common Merganser at Hidden lakes (Bob Royse et al.), and several different flocks of Ring-necked Ducks and Buffleheads.  And that’s not even counting the Snow Goose and Cackling Goose found during Count Week.  It was a good year to be duckish.

Duckish things weren’t the only ‘waterbirds’ of note this year.  5 Sandhill Cranes were in a field on the southeast edge of the circle (Linda Benner & Lori Patterson), and we also had a good total of 46 Great Blue Herons.  On a down note, however, gull totals were poor, with less than 300 Ring-billed Gulls and no Herring Gulls except during Count Week.  The pandemic shut-down probably lowered the amount of food trash we discarded, taking away their prime food source.

December’s cold snaps decreased both insects and leaves, but apparently not so much to inhibit small perching birds. Gone was last year’s poor showing of Kinglets, replaced by good numbers of Golden-crowns and a startling 5 Ruby-crowns.  Other gleaners did well, too, with 41 Brown Creepers, 6 Winter Wrens, and an eye-popping 212 Carolina Wrens.  Also rebounding quite nicely were sparrows, with 10 species, including 2 hard-to-find species, both at OSU:  a Lincolns Sparrow at Mirror Lake (Irina Shulgina) and a Fox Sparrow at West Campus (Leslie Sours).  Numbers of other sparrows were up as well, with large numbers of Towhees, White-throated, Song, and Swamp Sparrows.  Clearly, the urban-suburban environments of Columbus are not discouraging these birds. 

Fruit-eaters had a mixed Count, with a lot of bushes stripped of berries before mid-December.    This was reflected in modest numbers of Robins (2045) and Starlings (4036) and positively low numbers of Cedar Waxwings (11).  But some fruit-eaters did fine.  E.Bluebirds continued their upward trend with 151, and 31 Mockingbirds was a good total.  Two unexpected fruit-eaters graced the Count: a late Gray Catbird at Blendon Woods, and a very unexpected Varied Thrush at a feeder near Whitehall (Leslie Sours).  Incredibly, this isn’t the first time we’ve had this rare western vagrant; another was seen on the Count back in 1984.

Along with more prey came more predators, as raptors had a fairly good Count.  Most had decent numbers, and a few had good numbers.  Our Bald Eagle tally dipped a bit down from last year’s record 16 to a more modest 8.  Merlins also dropped slightly from 10 to 7, but that was somewhat offset by 2 Peregrines.  Most other species showed some gains, and we had 2 Northern Harriers, unusual for our field-depleted circle.  Owls also seemed to rebound a bit, with 6 Barred and 3 Great Horned being high compared to recent years.  The Blendon Woods team even located a Screech Owl;  these diminutive predators are common in our riparian woods, but difficult to locate in winter.