2013 Columbus CBC Participants Defy Icy Conditions to Dig Out Birds

On December 15, 72 observers sponsored by CAS spent the day counting birds in different areas of Columbus. Rain the prior day plus freezing temperatures left many trails icy, so walking was difficult. Despite these conditions, observers were still able to dig up totals of 85 species and 29,675 individual birds.

Statistics

Count Date: December 15; 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Temp. 16-26 ºF. Wind SSW 0-3 mph Still water frozen, moving water open. A.M. cloudy; P.M. Partly cloudy. Observers: 68 in the field in 14-18 parties, 4 at feeders. Total party hours: 144 (103 on foot, 41 in cars, 3 owling). Total Party miles: 264 (98 on foot, 166 in cars, 6 owling).

Species Totals

Pied-billed Grebe – 22; Horned Grebe – 4; Double-crested Cormorant –35; Great Blue Heron – 51; Black-crowned Night Heron – 4; Tundra Swan – 2; Mute Swan – 4; Cackling Goose – 5; Canada Goose – 2940; Wood Duck – 4; Black Duck – 630; Mallard – 1280; N. Shoveler – 2; Gadwall – 6; American Wigeon – 9; N. Pintail – 1; Redhead – 6; Lesser Scaup – 3; Ring-necked Duck – 202; Bufflehead – 9; Hooded Merganser – 162; Ruddy Duck – 6; Bald Eagle – 10 (8a,2j); Sharp-shinned Hawk – 4; Cooper’s Hawk – 24; N. Harrier – 3; Red-shouldered Hawk – 1; Red-tailed Hawk – 42; Peregrine – 1; American Kestrel – 10; Wild Turkey – 49; American Coot – 129; Kildeer – 2; Ring-billed Gull – 2720; Herring Gull – 17; Rock Dove –901; Mourning Dove – 398; E. Screech Owl – 2; Great Horned Owl – 2; Barred Owl – 12; Belted Kingfisher – 15; Red-headed Woodpecker – 8 (4 groups); Red-bellied Woodpecker – 148; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 13; Downy Woodpecker – 195; Hairy Woodpecker – 19; N.Flicker – 73; Pileated Woodpecker – 13; Blue Jay – 349; American Crow – 300; Horned Lark – 105; Carolina Chickadee – 447; Tufted Titmouse – 175; White-breasted Nuthatch – 104; Red-breasted Nuthatch – 1; Brown Creeper – 40; Carolina Wren – 93; Winter Wren – 5; Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1; Golden-crowned Kinglet – 54; Eastern Bluebird – 92; Hermit Thrush – 3; American Robin – 3000; N.Mockingbird – 17; European Starling – 10,251; Cedar Waxwing – 20; American Pipit – 18; Yellow-rumped Warbler – 67; Northern Cardinal – 600; Eastern Towhee – 18; American Tree Sparrow – 395; Field Sparrow – 6; Savannah Sparrow – 1; Song Sparrow – 220; Swamp Sparrow – 2; Fox Sparrow – 3; White-throated Sparrow – 608; Dark-eyed Junco – 552; Lapland Longspur – 183; Rusty Blackbird – 5; Red-winged Blackbird – 13; Common Grackle – 8; Brown-headed Cowbird – 5; blackbird sp. – 50; House Finch – 341; American Goldfinch – 348; House Sparrow – 977

Totals: 85 species, 29,675 individuals
Birds seen Count Period, but not Count Day: Snow Goose, Green-winged Teal, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher

Observers

Robin Bautisa, Linda Benner, Steve Bouyack, Terri Boz, John & Gerry Brevoort, Nancy Bringardner, Don Burton, Ashley & Matt Collins, Rose Conrad, Tim Daniel, Ken Davis, Brad & Lindsay Deering, Daphne Dodson, Sheila Fagan, Diana Fowler, Brad Gambill, Louise Gambill, Paul Gardner, Bret Graves, Kay Griesen, Chris Grimm, Nina Harfmann, Dave Horn, Mike Horn, Paul Hurtado, Mike & Becky Jordan, Jamie Kidwell, Jennifer Kuehn, Steve Landes, Helen & Bruce Lindsay, Heather Luedecke, Neil Marquard, Bernie Master, Melissa Mason, Carolyn May, Irene McComas, Jim McCormac, Butch McKuell, Bob & Elaine McNulty, Barbara Merritt, Dick & Kathy Miller, Angelika Nelson, Sharon Newell, Diane Peters, Sam Pollock, Jeff Pontius, Pam Raver, Cheri Rida,, Robert Royse, Andy Sewell, Bruce Simpson, Shaun Skinner, Doug & Deena Snapp, Leslie Sours, Gene Stauffer, Andy Steele, David & Patty Tan, Charlotte Thielbert, Rob Thorn (compiler), Dick Tuttle, Bill & Hester Virgin, Bill Whan

Narrative

Although conditions were dicey, groups that did spend time outside all reported finding good diversity, with species counts in the high 40s and low 50s for single teams common. This was also one of those unusual counts in that we had a rather even spread of observers over the circle, sharpening the focus on what I call ‘The Four Corners of Columbus’.

Since our circle has such an urban center, most of our teams are focused on areas along the margins. In the NE, there’s Blendon Woods and adjoining Gahanna and Jefferson Township, where the ravines and sandstone bedrock discouraged farming and left large chunks of woodlands. Bruce Simpson’s Blendon Woods team had an excellent day, hustling up Gadwall and Wigeon on Thoreau Lake, along with 34 Wild Turkeys, a Red-headed Woodpecker, 2 Fox Sparrows, and a remarkable 43 Yellow-rumped Warblers. On the edge of the park, Doreen Linzell & Dan Sanders had all four species of blackbirds at their feeders. The Gahanna team unearthed 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers, Winter Wren, and a flock of 60+ Tree Sparrows (Bob & Elaine McNulty). With it’s wide-ranging team, Jefferson Township birders found 15 Wild Turkeys, 2 Barred Owls, another Red-headed Woodpecker, 2 Winter Wrens, and an eye-popping 49 E.Bluebirds.

In the SE, there’s the riparian forests, swamps, and fields of Blacklick Woods, Reynoldsburg, and the 3-Creeks areas. Blacklick Woods area had 4 more Red-headed Woodpeckers, 4 Barred Owls, and a Hermit Thrush, among others (Pam Raver, Shaune Skinner). The Golf Course there had a very cold Kildeer, but we missed out on a Brown Thrasher that had been there the day before (Mike Horn). The Blacklick Greenway had a Great horned owl, a N.Pintail, and 2 Field Sparrows (Dave & Patty Tan), while the nearby Big Walnut corridor had a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Winter Wren, and a Swamp Sparrow. The 3-Creeks team braved slick foot trails to spy 2 Gadwall, a Bald Eagle, and the count’s only Red-br. Nuthatch (Joe Meara, Gene Stauffer).

In the SW are Greenlawn, Scioto Audubon and the Scioto River corridor. The newly-reconstituted SouthScioto team had a banner day in the few green spaces in this industrial area, pulling out 42 species including a N.Shoveler, Peregrine, Pileated Woodpecker, and our only Savannah Sparrow (Paul Gardner, Andy Sewell, Bill Whan). Jim & Bernie’s excellent Greenlawn adventure wound through the cemetery & nearby quarries to snag 2 N. Harriers, the Peregrine, 3 sapsuckers, and a flock of 18 American Pipits at the Haul Rd Quarries. The Scioto-Berliner team cruised the riverside areas to find 2 Tundra Swans (1st Count record), N. Shoveler & Amer.Wigeon, 6 different Bald Eagles, 12 Brown Creepers (at Berliner park), and another Fox Sparrow (Jeff Pontius, Steve Landes). A team even checked along the newly muddy downtown riverfront, finding a big flock of Ring-billed Gulls and a squad of 90 Hooded Mergansers among other birds(Brad & Lindsay Deering).

And in the NW are the Grandview-to-Griggs corridor, Upper Arlington, OSU, and Clintonville. Grandview collected it’s usual mix of forest birds (Doug & Deena Snapp), while the Hidden Lakes-Griggs area had a good day with 200 Ring-necked Ducks, 6 Redhead, 4 Ruddy Ducks, 4 Horned Grebes, and 129 Coots (all on Watermark Lake), along with 2 Screech Owls at Hidden Lakes (Bob Royse, et al.). West Campus of OSU & Upper Arlington had 5 Cackling Geese in a flock of Canadas, another N.Harrier, a Field Sparrow, and an unusual, large mixed flock of Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks at Waterman Farms (Bret Graves, Chris Grimm, Leslie Sours, )Paul Hurtado). The large OSU Main-Clintonville team also found birds in their urban parks, with 4 Cooper’s Hawks, Barred & Great Horned Owls, and our only Ruby-cr. Kinglet (Don Burton, Dave Horn, et al.)

As with every CBC, there are birds that show increased numbers and those that don’t. Much of this is just year-to-year variations, but occasionally we can spot a long-term trend in its early stages. In this year’s CBC, who did well and who didn’t? Or, as we like to say,

Who’s Hot?

Swans –  You wouldn’t think 6 individuals of 2 species is much to crow about, but given the limited open water, it was. Tundra Swans have been migrating later and later, so it was just a matter of time until they overlapped our relatively early Count date.

Pied-billed Grebes –  As cute as they look, these are tough little birds. We now have small groups of 2-4 spending the winter below most of our major dams along the Scioto River.

Bald Eagles – They just keep getting more abundant. We had 7 different teams see at least one, a ratio that compares with some Lake Erie Counts. What’s next? Nest-building on a downtown building? Eagles squabbling for scraps at the North Market?

Red-headed Woodpeckers – While they were less abundant than Eagles (How often does that happen), they still had a good Count. Four different teams found them, all on the east side of the circle near some of the remaining oak woodlands in our circle.

Golden-crowned Kinglets – Our 54 tied the all-time high for the count. While this number pales in comparison with some NE Ohio counts, it represents a good number for Columbus. Why did they move into our fair burg? That we don’t know.

Eastern Bluebirds – They are becoming one of our regular overwintering birds, especially in meadows and parklands along our creeks. We’ll have to see if they’ve become clever enough to survive extended freezes.

Yellow-rumped Warblers – The shadow-brother of Eastern Bluebirds, since both use poison ivy berries as a main winter forage. These little warblers continue to take advantage of the local boom in poison ivy vines in our parks and greenways.

Tree Sparrows – It was a nice invasion year for these boreal sparrows, and their numbers didn’t disappoint. Almost every team had some, and some groups had quite a few.

Who’s Not?

Common Goldeneyes – These were formerly a regular feature on our CBC, but their numbers have dwindled to the point where they are now occasionals. Many of them are wintering further north, as open water is found in northern Ohio now for much of the winter.

Great Horned Owls – I hate to be a cassandra, but these big owls are in trouble in our CBC. We have only a few territories to look for them, and it’s not easy to find them, so they are just haning on in our urbanized circle.

Red-breasted Nuthatch – Definitely a down year, which was expected since last year had so many. Still, we normally expect a few on an off year, yet we were lucky to find one.

European Starling – Hey, I said ‘not hot’. Their numbers dropped over 65% , which would be cause for alarm in other birds. The reality is that the cold weather may have pushed some of their flocks further south. Don’t worry; I safely predict that they’ll be back.

Cedar Waxwings – Despite good numbers of other fruit-eaters (Robins, Bluebirds), these fruit nomads mostly folded their tents and moved away. There seemed to be plenty of fruit, so perhaps it was temperatures that convinced them to move.

Common Grackles – These have been our most numerous, reliable wintering blackbird. Not this winter, when only a few groups found them. Like starlings, their roosts are sensitive to low temperatures, so they may have moved down the Scioto Valley or further south this year.

Winter Finches – It was just not a good year for them….yet. Reports of Purple Finches and siskins were almost non-existent before the count, so we weren’t that surprised.

Final Thoughts

Many thanks go out to all who got out on this icy day to help count birds. We had many no shows, and even lost 2 entire areas, which makes our totals all the more remarkable. The birds were not overly affected by the weather, as our Count and the Hoover & Delaware Counts from the same weekend all had respectable totals. Whether the long periods of intense cold since early January will depress bird populations remains to be seen. Come on out for the 2014 CBCs!