Sunday, December 22, 2013
A drenching rain did not occur although the anxiety-producing forecast for the afternoon claimed an 80 percent chance of precipitation. The temperature reached a high of 67 degrees Fahrenheit. After a brief spritz of moisture in the morning, the sky was variable with an occasional small patch of blue for the rest of the day. Spring Peepers called. A Painted Turtle loafed on a stationary object in the Rockaway River. This is December in northern New Jersey. This is the 78th Boonton Christmas Bird Count.
The highlight of the count is 46 Red-headed Woodpeckers recorded from three parties with 43 carefully counted in Troy Meadows by the Troy Meadows West party. This obliterates the previous Boonton Christmas Bird Count (CBC) record of 20 Red-headed Woodpeckers in 2001.
The total species count stands at 96 plus 1 count week species for a grand total of 98, with all but one party reporting. The average for the previous 10 years is 98.5 species.
44,042 individual birds were counted, the highest total since 2001 (62,336) and the third highest total in the count’s 78-year history:
2001 – 62,336
1999 – 59,665
2013 – 44,042
Large numbers of Common Grackles and other species pouring into Troy Meadows for their evening roost generates these large totals. The 21st century average of total individuals is 29,174; the 78-year average is 16,571.
There was a freeze in the count area during the Thanksgiving period. Snow events in early December buried many avian food sources. Most bodies of water in the area remained frozen up until a few days before the count. Mild temperatures started a few days before the count but too late to make a positive impression on waterfowl numbers. The rivers remained ice-free for the most part, contributing to the large Mallard/Am. Black Duck totals.
- Am. Black Duck – 449, highest since 2000 (476).
- Mallards – 1,247, highest since 2001 (1,333).
- Common Goldeneye – missed the previous two years, 8 were counted in two parties.
- Red-breasted Mergansers – recorded for the 3rd year in a row after only once in the 10 years prior to that. The total of 7 is the highest count since 14 in 1938, the third year of the Boonton CBC.
- Bald Eagle – 10, all-time high count.
- Merlin – 3, all-time high count.
- Red-headed Woodpecker – 46, all-time high count.
- Northern Flicker – 94, all-time high.
- American Robin – 8,790, all-time high.
- Yellow-rumped Warbler – 40, 2nd highest total since 2000.
- Eastern Towhee – 21, 3rd highest total in count history (2001 – 37; 1971 – 26).
- Am. Tree Sparrow – 310 – rebound after a 5-year dip – 21st century average is 364.
- Savannah Sparrow – 11, highest since 13 in 2002.
- Swamp Sparrow – 96, highest since 1976 (207).
- Red-winged Blackbird – 1,187, highest since 2001 (1,782).
- Rusty Blackbird – 130, only 3 tallied in 2012. The 21st century average is 75.
- Canada Goose – 3,448, lowest total since 2006. 21st century average is 4,500.
- Ruddy Duck – 19, lowest total since 1989 (0). 148 is the 21st century average.
- Accipiter spp. – Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks had their 2nd low year in a row (6 and 4 in 2013; 6 and 4 in 2012). Their averages for the 21st century are 13 and 8 respectively.
- Red-tailed Hawk – 58, 2nd lowest number since 1989 (54). There were 46 in 2010, lowest since 1979. 21st century average is 87.
- Northern Mockingbird – 48, 3rd lowest total since 1972 (36). The 21st century average is 100.
- Cedar Waxwing – 13, lowest since 1989 (0). The 21st century average is 76.
- House Finch – 46, lowest since 1970 (21). The 21st century average is 190.
- House Sparrow- 416, although average for the past 4 years, the 21st century mean is 657; the all-time average in 78 years of the Boonton CBC is 464.
Single party reports for the following species (reported by one party only).
Format = Species (party) – amount:
- Snow Goose (Troy Meadows East) – 22 in one flyover flock. 2012’s 301 is the all-time high. 22 is the second highest total since 1993. Snow Goose is just not a common species on this count occurring on 17 of 78 years and usually in very low numbers.
- Northern Pintail (Morristown) – 2
- Redhead (West Essex) – 1
- Common Loon (Boonton Reservoir) – 2
- Pied-billed Grebe (Denville) – 1
- Horned Grebe (Boonton Reservoir) -2
- Red-shouldered Hawk (Denville) – 1
- American Kestrel (Florham Park – Count Week) – 1
- American Woodcock (Denville) – 2
- Long-eared Owl (Denville) – 6
- Red-breasted Nuthatch (Denville) – 1
- House Wren (Denville) – 1
- Hermit Thrush (Denville) – 1
- Gray Catbird (Denville) – 1
- Brown Thrasher (Great Piece Meadows) – 1
Other sparse and interesting tallies:
- Wood Duck – two parties had single birds. Only 4 were reported last year. 21st century average is 13.
- Green-winged Teal – 2 parties reported a total of 6. 35 is the 21st century average.
- Lesser Scaup – 2 parties reported a total of 3. 24 is the 21st century average.
- Peregrine Falcon – 2 reported from two parties.
- Common Raven – 4 from two parties; first reported on this count in 2002, this is the 3rd consecutive and 5th out of 6th years it has been recorded.
- White-crowned Sparrow – 3 from two parties. This marks the 20th consecutive year that White-crowned Sparrow has been recorded on the count. It was counted only 9 of the previous 58 years before that.
- Purple Finch – 5 reported from three parties. Whether it is a good or bad winter finch forecast, this species is recorded 73 out of 78 years.
The Big Misses:
- Northern Shoveler – 1st miss since 1988.
- Barred Owl – 1st miss since 1998.
Approximately 50 individual birders in over 10 parties partook of this glorious day. A warm and heartfelt thanks to all of the participants for your generous contribution of time, energy and enthusiasm. Keep the last two Sundays of December 2014 free. The 79th Boonton Christmas Bird Count will either be on the 21st or 28th.
Until we count again, good birding!
Jonathan Klizas, compiler
Boonton Christmas Bird Count