[CT Birds] Preliminary Look at the 2014-2015 Connecticut Christmas Bird Count

Stephen Broker ls.broker at cox.net
Mon Mar 2 13:52:03 EST 2015

From Steve Broker (Cheshire):

With 16 Connecticut count circles reporting, here’s a preliminary look at the statewide results of the 2014-2015 Connecticut Christmas Bird Count.  In this brief analysis, the current results are compared with the previous 29 years of data to determine new 30-year high and 30-year low totals for species observed, as well as rarities and species new to the 30-year statewide count.  Full results of the CT CBC will be published in The Connecticut Warbler.


Seven CBCs were held on Sunday, December 14 at the start of the CBC period.  Six more counts followed on the weekend of December 20-21, with another one toward the end of the month.  Four counts were conducted between January 1 and 4.  Weather conditions were generally benign, with nearly every count conducted under cloudy skies A.M. and P.M..  Pawling/Hidden Valley (1/1) was the exception with clear but cool conditions.  Woodbury-Roxbury (12/20), Barkhamsted (12/21), and New London (1/3) had light afternoon snow, while Edwin Way Teale, Trail Wood (1/4) and Old Lyme-Saybrook (1/4) experienced light rain through the day.  Winter closed in following completion of the count window, with a series of January snowstorms and a February best wiped from memory.


There were equal numbers of species with 30-year high and 30-year low totals. Record highs occurred for Northern Pintail (through the roof!) and Lesser Scaup (equally so), while Snow Goose (just 3), Mute Swan, American Black Duck, and Canvasback (1 at Startford-Milford!) were at record lows.  Some 150 Bald Eagles statewide easily set a record high.  Take that, Ben Franklin!  Nearly 200 Red-shouldered Hawks trounced the previous statewide high.  Merlin broke all previous records for high numbers (31) and was parroted by Peregrine Falcons (26).  (Sorry, still trying to deal with recent taxonomic revisions.)  Pawling had the only count day Northern Goshawk, while Litchfield Hills observed one count week.  Five to ten goshawks statewide would be a happier number.


Among shorebirds, Killdeer, Ruddy Turnstone, and Wilson’s Snipe were in record low numbers.  The same was true of Bonaparte’s Gull, Herring Gull, and Great Black-backed Gull.  Folks use all sorts of waste materials to create artificial reefs.  Can’t we bring back the landfills in Connecticut?  Above all, this was the year of the woodpecker, with Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy at record high totals and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Pileated Woodpecker close to new highs.  Sam & Dave and Otis Redding & Carla Thomas would be ecstatic.


KRONK!  Here come the raven lunatics!  At latest count, 191 Common Ravens were reported, 51 of these smarties at Lakeville-Sharon.  White-breasted Nuthatch set another early winter record high.  It was morning in Connecticut for Vesper Sparrows with 10 reported.  In contrast, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Brown-headed Cowbirds set new low totals.  Most flocking birds are highly variable in their early winter numbers, and Cedar Waxwings and Red-winged Blackbirds were in low supply this time around.  Rusty Blackbirds were pretty well represented (102), and Common Grackles defy all generalizations.        


It’s apparently tough to be an exotic these days in the Constitution State, with Mute Swans, Ring-necked Pheasants, Rock Pigeons, Monk Parakeets, and House Finches all seemingly on the decline.  Can’t we be more welcoming?  House Sparrows were in average supply, and if one throws Mallards into this group, they too were in average numbers. 


At last count, 750 field observers and feeder watchers recorded a total of 164 count day species.  That’s about par for the avian course. 

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