The Great Swamp – Watchung Ridges Christmas Bird Count (CBC) occurred on Saturday, December 20, 2014
The following report is by Simon Lane, compiler of the count.
This year we recorded 84 species and 23,350 individuals on the count day.
(An average total of species for the count, and a total number slightly above the mean)
We had 80 participants, including quite a few taking part for the first time, comprising 10 teams in at least thirteen different groups covering our circle’s traditional areas. We also had three groups or individuals who put in a good few night-time hours owling, and four different feeder watches for the day. If you haven’t seen it before, a google map showing the territory is linked below.
Great Swamp Watchung Ridges CBC Map
It was a still and overcast day, with the temperatures ranging from 28f to 36f, and with a hard freeze and snow earlier in the season, expectations were measured. All of the circle’s water bodies were however open, and many of the species we would hope to see put in an appearance.
Waterfowl were well represented with Canoe Brook Reservoir producing good numbers of Common Mergansers and the count’s only Ring-necked Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, and Bufflehead, along with four Redheads – only the seventh time in the count’s history. Northern Shoveler was missed again this year.
A single Common Loon also on Canoe Brook was a great find, and only the second ever record for the count. Coot were found in a number of locations.
Vulture and Raptor sightings were mixed. We scraped in with both Vultures from the Lord Stirling team, picked up a good number of Bald Eagles, with ten being the highest number ever recorded on the count, and avoided missing Northern Harrier again with four birds seen. Accipiter and Buteo numbers were on the low side, and American Kestrel seen by two teams secured the only falcons on the day.
No shorebirds of any species.
Gull numbers were well down, another symptom perhaps of the still conditions and general lack of any type of movement during the day.
Record numbers of Owls were secured with a lot of nocturnal birding in various sections. Calling Long-eared Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl in the Great Swamp area were very welcome, and somewhat irregular for the count.
Star billing goes again to a Female Rufous Hummingbird at a private location, where it has been well looked after for several weeks. The second year in a row for a Rufous for our count, and the second ever record.
A photo taken on the day by Joe Pescatore is here:
The number of Woodpeckers was strong overall, although sadly, Red-headed was not recorded this year. Other woodland birds were well represented, and a single Red-breasted Nuthatch in the Watchung Reservation was a good find in an off-year for the species.
Blue Jay and Crow numbers were well down generally, but a couple of Raven sightings bring this expanding species into the ‘becoming regular’ category.
Four Marsh Wrens in the Great Swamp areas was excellent and equalled the previous high, and Winter Wrens were found by many, with numbers at the second highest recorded.
Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing and Eastern Towhee were all missed this year, but a Common Yellowthroat in the Great Swamp was the first for the count in twenty years.
Sparrow numbers were solid, but unfortunately neither of the Chipping Sparrows seen earlier in the count week period made it on to the CBC day list.
Blackbirds were thin, with more Rusty Blackbirds than Grackles (just two!), small numbers of Red-winged, and no Cowbirds this year.
The larger numbers of Purple Finch and Pine Siskin seen in the region during the fall had mostly departed, but both made the count. One of the best sightings of the day was six White-winged Crossbills, seen well by the Great Swamp East team on one of the wilderness trails.
The complete list of species seen is shown below.
Another enjoyable count as always, and thanks again for everyone’s efforts. If anyone on the teams can add any birds for Count Week (Wed 12/17 through Tue 12/23) please let me know. We have added Merlin and Chipping Sparrow thus far.
Next year’s Great Swamp Watchung Ridges CBC will be held on SATURDAY 19th DECEMBER 2015 – Mark you calendars.
Best Regards and Happy Holidays to all
Simon Lane, Compiler
|Great Swamp Watchung
|No. of Groups recording|
|American Black Duck||314||7|
|Great Blue Heron||22||9|
|Great Black-backed Gull||2||1|
|Great Horned Owl||13||7|
|Northern Saw Whet Owl||1||1|
|Long Earred Owl||1||1|
|American Tree Sparrow||88||8|