2008 Columbus CBC: Mild Weather, Good Turnout

Hooded Merganser - Photo Paul Albertella

Mild Weather, Good Turnout Boost 2008 Columbus CBC Totals

On December 14, 50 observers sponsored by CAS spent the day counting birds in different areas in and around Columbus. The early date plus the good weather and a decent berry crop made for a nice day with good numbers of birds. The final total was 79 species and 55,885 individual birds, which are very good numbers. Some birds, mostly fruit-eaters, had banner years; the Starling numbers alone exceeded the total for all species on last year’s CBC. Now, if only we could get bluebirds or siskins in those numbers!

Count Statistics

Count Date: December 14; 6:30 a.m. To 5:30 p.m. Temp. 28 to 37. Wind WSW 0-5 mph Still water mostly frozen, moving water open. A.M. Partly cloudy; P.M. Partly cloudy. Observers: 40 in the field in 13-14 parties, 6 at feeders. Total party hours: 122 (98 on foot, 20 in cars, 4 on bike). Total Party miles: 321 (103 on foot, 206 in cars, 12 on bike) Owling: 2.5 hours

Species

Mute Swan – 2; Canada Goose – 2296; Wood Duck – 1; Black Duck – 503; Mallard – 2034; Green-winged Teal – 1; Gadwall – 20; N.Shoveler – 1; Ring-necked Duck – 191 (high); Lesser Scaup – 3; Bufflehead – 3; Common Goldeneye – 1; Hooded Merganser – 181; Sharp-shinned Hawk – 5; Cooper’s Hawk – 18; Bald Eagle – 4 (3a,1j); Red-shouldered Hawk – 1; Red-tailed Hawk – 44; Rough-legged Hawk – 1; American Kestrel – 3; American Coot – 10; Pied-billed Grebe – 1; Great Blue Heron – 73; Black-cr.Night Heron – 13; Kildeer – 2; Ring-billed Gull – 1741; Herring Gull – 1; Rock Pigeon – 1655; Mourning Dove – 847; Great Horned Owl – 3; Barred Owl – 6; E.Screech Owl – 1; Belted Kingfisher – 16; Red-headed Woodpecker – 1; Red-bellied Woodpecker – 97; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 4; Downy Woodpecker – 172; Hairy Woodpecker – 17; N.Flicker – 54 (high); Pileated Woodpecker – 1; Eastern Phoebe – 1; Blue Jay – 144; American Crow – 476; Carolina Chickadee – 489; Tufted Titmouse – 117; White-breasted Nuthatch – 123; Red-breasted Nuthatch – 4; Brown Creeper – 36; Carolina Wren – 88; Winter Wren – 3; Golden-crowned Kinglet – 27; Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 2 (2 teams); Horned Lark – 7; Eastern Bluebird – 26; American Robin – 4157 (high); N.Mockingbird – 12; European Starling – 35,540; Yellow-rumped Warbler – 23; Eastern Towhee – 6; American Tree Sparrow – 61; Field Sparrow – 3; Chipping Sparrow – 1; Song Sparrow – 176; Swamp Sparrow – 4; White-throated Sparrow – 607; White-crowned Sparrow – 17; Dark-eyed Junco – 534; Dickcissel – 1 (present entire count period); E.Meadowlark – 1; Red-winged Blackbird – 3; Common Grackle – 9; Brown-headed Cowbird – 7; N.Cardinal – 453; Purple Finch – 4; House Finch – 622; American Goldfinch – 591; Pine Siskin – 2; House Sparrow – 1123

Totals: 79 species, 55,886 individuals

Species seen count week but not count day: Double-crested Cormorant, Wild Turkey, Rufous Hummingbird, E. Fox Sparrow, White-winged Crossbill

Participants

Anderson, Steve, Charles & Linda Bombaci, Aaron Boone, Nancy Bringardner, Don Burton, Brad & Lindsay Deering, Sheila Fagan, Diana Fowler, Ryan Franz, Bret Graves, Kay Greisen, Dianne Griffin, Dave and Roz Horn, Becky & Mike Jordan, Kristi Kumkauf, Bruce & Helen Lindsay, Neil Marquard, Carolyn May, Jim McCormac, Robert McNulty, Barbara Merritt, Dick & Kathy Miller, Richard & Rick Oxley, Sam Pollock, Pam Raver, Heather & Matt Raymond, Robert Royse, Andy Sewell, Bruce Simpson, Jim Skinner, Shauna Skinner, Dave Slager, Gene Stauffer, Rob Thorn (compiler), Dick Tuttle

With some stretches of mild weather leading right up to the count day, along with a good berry crop, huge numbers of fruit-eating birds inflated the total count. Just check out those numbers for Robins, Starlings, Waxwings, White-throated Sparrows, and House Finches. Several startling finds included a Dickcissel at the feeders of Blendon Woods (many observers), 3 adult Bald Eagles nest-building in a quarry along the southern Scioto River (J.McCormac), an Eastern Phoebe flycatching over Alum Creek at Jeffrey Park (Brad & Lindsay Deering), 2 different Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Bob Royse; Dave Slager), and Purple Finches and Pine Siskins by several teams. The count will also be remembered by several great count period birds that just missed Count Day: a Rufous Hummingbird that had visited a Bexley feeder right up to 2 days before the Count day, and White-winged Crossbills that lurked around the Greenlawn cemetery for several weeks before the count (and reappeared early in January). Ah, well… you can’t find everything!

Narrative

What were the trends in this Count? While Canada Geese, Ring-billed Gulls, and Rock Pigeons continue their expected strong numbers, some species numbers fluctuated as they played ‘Guess where my roost is this year?’ The big Crow roost in south Columbus was completely absent from its usual spot, and smaller numbers of Crows were seen roosting in all sorts of atypical locations. Starlings, meanwhile, moved their central Columbus roost down into south Columbus, where I watched an outflight in excess of 20,000 birds early on count morning. Other notable booms and busts for 2008 included:

Who’s Hot

1. Ring-necked Ducks – these dapper divers are showing up in increasing numbers, with this year’s 191 a local record. They seem to be learning that open pools along our rivers are safe and food-filled havens in even the coldest weather.

2. Hooded Mergansers – lots of teams found these beautiful little ducks, suggesting that they’re reading from the same playbook as Ring-necks. I didn’t hear many complaints about ‘too many’ Hoodies.

3. Ring-billed Gulls. They continue to prosper in winter Columbus, and even areas with little water found some. They must stop here for the shopping malls and stay for the fast food outlets!

4. Big Owls – the numbers of Barred (6) and Great Horned (3) were gratifyingly high for such an urban circle. Barreds are doing well in our riparian greenways, while Great Horneds continue to hang on in a few park areas.

5. Fruit-eating Birds – American Robins set a count record, and Starlings, Waxwings, and House Finches all had good numbers. This year’s fruit crop, both on invasive honeysuckle and planted ornamental trees, was much better than last year’s.

6. Kinglets – not only was it a good year for Golden-crowned Kinglets, but we were even blessed by the appearance of 2 Ruby-crowns. It’s tough to say what attracts these rugged little insect-eaters, but we must have had some of it this year.

Who’s Not

1. Open-country raptors. They just keep disappearing from our urbanizing landscape. Once again we went without northern Harriers, and our Kestrel numbers hover near the vanishing point.

2. Pileated Woodpeckers – we almost whiffed on these big woodpeckers this year, and they were not much in evidence on surveys before and after the count. Only the doughty Blacklick team (Raver, Franz, Rowland) ferreted out one of these elusive birds. Whether the low #s represent a normal statistical error or the beginning of a more ominous trend, only future counts will tell.

3. Tufted Titmouse – call me a cassandra, but these perky little feeder birds have been slowly losing numbers for nearly 2 decades now. Formerly they were as common as chickadees; now, we’re lucky if we see as many of them as nuthatches. Something about urban life doesn’t agree with them.

4. Larks, Pipits, Meadowlarks – Just like the open-country raptors, these birds are disappearing with our last big farm fields. We had a few Horned Larks and 1 Meadowlark, but no pipits were found this year.

5. Blackbirds – They still are few and far between in winter Columbus. Although they were seen by multiple teams, the 3 common species (Redwing, Grackles, and Cowbirds) continue to straggle in with low numbers. Of course, our numbers of corn stubble-fields and cattle feedlots is also precariously low. Random coincidence? I doubt it.