Great Swamp-Watchung Ridges Christmas Bird Count Report, 2014 – 84 Species

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:

Female Rufous Hummingbird, Warren  Twp., NJ, Dec. 20, 2014 (photo by Joe Pescatore)

Female Rufous Hummingbird, Warren Twp., NJ, Dec. 20, 2014 (photo by Joe Pescatore)

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
Ridges CBC
   Total
Individuals
No. of Groups recording
Species
Snow Goose 2 2
Canada Goose 4350 11
Mute Swan 6 3
Wood Duck 19 4
Gadwall 45 4
American Wigeon 9 2
American Black Duck 314 7
Mallard 962 11
Northern Pintail 20 2
Green-winged Teal 11 3
Ring-necked Duck 125 1
Redhead 4 1
Bufflehead 30 1
Hooded Merganser 97 5
Common Merganser 1320 2
Ruddy Duck 225 1
Wild Turkey 23 5
Common Loon 1 1
Great Blue Heron 22 9
Black Vulture 2 1
Turkey Vulture 4 3
Bald Eagle 10 6
Northern Harrier 4 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 6 4
Cooper’s Hawk 4 3
Red-shouldered Hawk 4 3
Red-tailed Hawk 53 10
American Kestrel 2 2
Merlin 0 0
American Coot 88 3
Ring-billed Gull 99 6
Herring Gull 32 3
Great Black-backed Gull 2 1
Rock Pigeon 97 6
Mourning Dove 296 11
Eastern Screech-Owl 38 4
Great Horned Owl 13 7
Barred Owl 13 4
Northern Saw Whet Owl 1 1
Long Earred Owl 1 1
Rufous Hummingbird 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 10 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker 119 11
Downy Woodpecker 196 11
Hairy Woodpecker 56 11
Northern Flicker 63 9
Pileated Woodpecker 10 8
Blue Jay 186 11
American Crow 140 8
Fish Crow 5 4
Common Raven 3 2
Black-capped Chickadee 163 11
Tufted Titmouse 293 11
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 141 11
Brown Creeper 18 6
Carolina Wren 26 11
Winter Wren 22 7
Marsh Wren 4 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 31 6
Eastern Bluebird 26 3
Hermit Thrush 2 1
American Robin 547 8
Northern Mockingbird 22 9
European Starling 9188 10
American Pipit 1 1
Common Yellowthroat 1 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 9 3
American Tree Sparrow 88 8
Chipping  Sparrow 0 0
Field Sparrow 11 4
Fox Sparrow 3 3
Song Sparrow 179 11
Swamp Sparrow 50 6
White-throated Sparrow 228 11
Dark-eyed Junco 840 11
Northern Cardinal 124 11
Red-winged Blackbird 64 5
Rusty Blackbird 17 2
Common Grackle 2 2
Purple Finch 5 3
House Finch 119 10
White-winged Crossbill 6 1
Pine Siskin 7 1
American Goldfinch 113 10
House Sparrow 410 10
TOTAL SPECIES 84
Various
Black Duck/Mallard 400
Crow Sp. 46
TOTAL INDIVIDUALS 22350
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