The 77th Boonton Christmas Bird Count (CBC) occurred on Sunday, December 23, 2012. First and foremost a warm and hearty thank you to all of the participants in this year’s CBC. The weather was accommodating with freezing temperatures at dawn giving way to partly and then mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the high 30 degrees Fahrenheit by afternoon. There was some wind in open spaces. All bodies of water were open. Conditions seemed conducive to a productive count. The only thing missing was the birds. Was it too much open water, absolutely no snow cover – your guess is as good as anyone’s is. A rainstorm the previous week caused flooding to many areas making them inaccessible. Tim Vogel put it in perspective: “I never had such a slow day in the 40+ years I’ve been on the count. With nothing frozen or with no snow the birds are really spread out. Even the duck and gull count at the reservoir was way off.”
Read the previous paragraph – and then see the tally of 96 species plus 2 count week species and suddenly the numbers do not look so bleak, at least to the compiler. In fact, 96 is one less than the total for 2011 – two less than 2010 – 18 more than the 76-year average of 78 – only three less than the 21st century average of 99. There, it does not look so bad after all. The total number of individuals, 17,778, tells a different story. This is the lowest number since 1989’s 15,285. It is well below the 21st century average of 27, 693 (this average is boosted by 20,000 Common Grackles in 2001). The species number is admirable but the number of individuals is worthy of further study though not in the context of the present document.
The highlights of the count are geese: the count’s second Greater White-fronted Goose was seen by Kevin Lapsey and Florence Klecha at Foote’s Pond in Morristown late in the afternoon of the 23rd. The Boonton Reservoir party picked up the count’s second all-time Cackling Goose. Snow Goose totals set a new count record. Canada Goose numbers are the 3rd highest in count history. Not to be forgotten, Green-winged Teal totals are the 2nd highest in count history. Common Raven had its all-time high total. And on it goes.
The following summary neither creates explanations nor makes comparisons with other CBCs. It simply and truthfully presents the numbers and facts within the context of the 77 years of the Boonton CBC.
First are the species that were missed in 2012. Twenty species have appeared on all of the previous 76 Boonton CBCs. In 2012, all twenty 76ers became 77ers.
The following missed species are categorized based on their number of years on the count (the number in parenthesis), i.e. Eastern Towhee (61) means Eastern Towhee has appeared on the count 61 years. This list goes as far as the 30-year group, which covers approximately half the years of the count.
All accounted for in 2012.
Eastern Towhee (61) – 1st miss since 1967.
Common Goldeneye (59) – missed 2nd year in a row after a consecutive string of appearances from 1989-2010.
Ruffed Grouse (51) – 2006 was its last appearance.
Long-eared Owl (49) – appeared only once since 2008 and that was in 2009.
Rough-legged Hawk (47) – 1 in 2010 is the only since 2008.
Eastern Meadowlark (41) – an annual and modestly numerous species on the count into the 1970s has appeared only 3 times since 1985: in 1989, 1996 and 2001.
Horned Lark (39) – 1 individual on the 2003 count is the only one since 2000.
Greater Scaup (37) – missed three years in a row.
Redhead (34) – missed for the 5th time in the 21st century.
Virginia Rail (34) – last appearance was in 1987.
Red-headed Woodpecker (34) – 1st miss since 2002.
Evening Grosbeak (33) – last appearance was 1997.
Marsh Wren (30) – not since 2007.
Summary: In the red and in the black.
The species below are followed by a number in parentheses representing the total for 2012. Mallard (714) means 714 Mallards were observed in 2012. 2009 (600) means 600 were tallied in 2009. Not all of the species are represented below, but just a small sampling of some that have interesting stories to tell.
In the red:
Wood Duck (4) – far below the 21st century average of 15.2.
Mallard (714) – 3nd lowest since 2009 (600) and 1972 (566).
Common Merganser (136) – 2nd lowest since 1993 (76). 2006 had 127.
Sharp-shinned Hawk (6) and Cooper’s Hawk (4) – lowest since 1990 – (4) and (3) respectively.
Ring-billed Gull (532) – Over 400 below the 21st Century average of 943.
Herring Gull (35) – 2nd lowest since 1963 (13). 2006 had 33.
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 2011 (69) and 2012 (74) are the lowest since 1993 (71).
Northern Flicker (23) – lowest since 1981 (19).
Blue Jay (206) – lowest since 1988 (173) and 1980 (147).
American Crow (369) – lowest since 1977 (346).
American Robin (58) – lowest since 1994 (48).
Eastern Bluebird (19) – below the average of 35 in the 21st Century.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (4) – lowest since 2004 (2).
American Tree Sparrow (139) – 2nd lowest total since the first count in 1936. 2011 is lower at 125. This species has averaged 680 since 1936 with 17 years topping 1,000 and many other years close to that. 1998 is the last year the total was over 1,000. There has been a sharp decline since.
Field Sparrow (12) – lowest since 1968 (5).
White-throated Sparrow (512) – Almost 400 below 21st Century average.
Northern Cardinal – 2011 (129) and 2012 (152) are the two lowest totals since the early 1970s.
Rusty Blackbird (3) – lowest since 1990 (0).
House Finch (85) – 3rd lowest number since 1971 (73). 2010 had 73.
In the black:
Greater White-fronted Goose (1) – 2nd in count history – 2005 was the first.
Snow Goose (301) – All-time high. Previous was 255 in 1993.
Cackling Goose (1) – 2nd appearance on count – 2008 was the first.
Canada Goose (6,038) – 3rd highest in count history following 2009 (7,143) and 1993 (6,253).
Tundra Swan (4) – 6th appearance on the count.
Gadwall (240) – 3rd highest in count history following 1991 (256) and 1974 (251).
Northern Pintail (8) – same as 2011, slightly above 21st century average of 5.
Green-winged Teal (106) – 2nd highest in count history. 1999 had 121.
Canvasback (27) – highest total since 2000 (31).
Green-winged Teal (106) – 2nd highest in count history. 1999 had 121.
Bufflehead (79) -highest since 2006 after 3 year dip.
Common Loon (2) – highest since 2003 (3).
Black Vulture (84) – 2nd highest in count history. 1994 had 87.
American Kestrel (2) – appears after a miss in 2011.
Barred Owl (5) – 4th time in 21st century with a total of 5 – also in 2000, 2004, 2005.
Common Raven (7) – all-time high for the count.
Brown Creeper (19) – highest since 1995 (23).
Winter Wren (13) – highest since 2006 (18).
Fox Sparrow (29) – 2nd highest in count history. 2001 had 121.
Song Sparrow (308) – below 21st century average (488) but better than previous 2 years.
Red-winged Blackbird (421) – 4th highest in 21st cent.
American Goldfinch (123) – slightly reverses a 4 year slide not seen since late 1960’s.
The table below contains all 98 species observed on the 2012 Boonton CBC (including the two count week species). Following the species column is the total number of individuals for 2012. This is followed by the all-time (previous 76 years) average for that species. If some species have a zero average that is because the numbers have been rounded. Next is the 21st Century average from 2000-2011. This gives a recent perspective on the species’ performance. The last column is the number of years the species has appeared on the count. This last column is updated through 2012.
|2012 Boonton CBC||All-time||21st Cent.|
|Greater White-fronted Goose||1||0||0||2|
|American Black Duck||220||390||228||77|
|Ring-necked Pheasant||CW (2)||4||1||68|
|Great Blue Heron||33||11||31||59|
|Great Black-backed Gull||5||15||12||49|
|Great Horned Owl||6||7||8||72|
|Northern Saw-whet Owl||1||0||0||21|
|Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker||23||28||64||75|
|Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler||4||12||26||49|
|American Tree Sparrow||139||680||387||77|
|Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco||995||635||1,012||77|
|Number of Observers||37||33||38|