79th Boonton Christmas Bird Count, 2014
The 79th Boonton Christmas Bird Count occurred on Sunday, December 21, 2014. 44 observers in 12 separate areas of the count circle tallied 101 species plus one count week species. This is the 13th time the century mark has been reached for this count and the first since 2009 when 103 species were observed. This is an excellent total for a completely inland Christmas Bird Count. The all-time high for the count is 106 in 2001. Any mention of the word count in this document refers to the Boonton Christmas Bird Count (CBC).
The weather forecast called for an eventually sunny sky with the temperature reaching 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The reality was a steely gray overcast the entire day with the temperature in the mid 30s. There was no precipitation. All bodies of water were open and filled from recent rains. Wind was negligible.
Farewell to the Knapps
All those associated with the Boonton CBC bid a warm and fond farewell to Carol and John Knapp. This is their final Boonton CBC as residents of Denville as they are moving to Delaware (maybe they will return to the count next year as New Jersey expatriates) . Thank you for the many decades of service you gave to the Boonton CBC and especially for organizing the very productive Denville area. A big thank you for the parting gift of a Golden Eagle for this year’s count!
The total number of individuals tallied in 2014 is 20,836, the 4th lowest total in the 21st century. This number is skewed by the Grackle Factor. The 21st century average prior to 2014 is 4,572 Common Grackles. Sunday’s count had 4. Below is a graph showing the correlation between Common Grackle (COGR) numbers and the total number of individuals for the count in the 21st century.
Highlights and Lowlights
- 8 Snow Geese is a nice find considering that this species occurs on only 23% of the counts. 4,437 Canada Geese is very average.
- The 3rd Cackling Goose in count history was at Foster Fields in Morris Township.
- How does open water contribute to the count? The 4,570 ducks tallied in 2014 is the second highest total in the history of the Boonton CBC (1999’s 5, 242 is the all-time high). Common Mergansers contributed greatly this year with 2,333, the second highest total in Boonton CBC history.
- Red-breasted Merganser was missed for the first time since 2010.
- 24 Northern Pintail is the most since 50 were counted in 1999.
- 4 Redheads were counted: 3 at Lake Parsippany; 1 at Canoe Brook Res. No. 2 (Livingston).
- Common Goldeneye (COGO) was missed for the 3rd year out of 4. Prior to 2011, COGO was not missed since 1988.
- 91 Wild Turkeys is the 3rd highest total since their first appearance on the count in 1983.
- 1 Double-crested Cormorant (Lincoln Park) does not seem like much but it is only the 3rd appearance of this species on the count in the 21st century. Common Loon was absent. Horned Grebe is a count week record (2 on Lake Parsippany, Dec. 24)..
- Both Black and Turkey Vulture numbers continue a downward trend. Black Vultures (10) were half of what is average in the 21st century ; Turkey Vultures at 44 individuals were 18 below the 21st century average.
- Total number of raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons): 82, the lowest total since 1990. See the chart below for a visual comparison of total raptors, Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors since 1975.
- Red-tailed Hawks continue to decline in numbers. 55 were tallied in 2014. 85 is the 21st century average, 92 since 1985.
- Northern Harrier was missed for the first time since 1999. It appears on 81% of the counts.
- A Golden Eagle in Denville (thank you, again, Carol and John) is only the 3rd on the count (2006, 2010 previously). Looks like a trend. Wait until 2018 for the next.
- 2 American Kestrels and 2 Merlins are always nice additions to the count. Peregrine Falcon was missed for only the second time since 2004.
- 1 Wilson’s Snipe at Great Piece Meadows was the only shorebird encountered. Killdeer was missed for the first time since 2007; American Woodcock had its first miss since 2002.
- Lesser Black-backed Gull on Lake Parsippany is the 4th in count history (1978, 1995, 2007).
- 321 Rock Pigeons is the 2nd lowest total since 1976. 2013’s total is the lowest since 1976. This year’s number is 345 below the average since Rock Pigeons began being counted in 1973.
- 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers is a sharp contrast with 2013’s Boonton CBC record 46 but is a typical cycle for this species. Red-bellied Woodpeckers at 95 individuals were less than half of the 2013 number of 197. Meanwhile, 210 Downy Woodpeckers is the highest total since 1999.
- 12 Pileated Woodpeckers ties the record high total first recorded in 2003.
- 195 Blue Jays is the lowest amount since 173 in 1988.
- 2 Common Ravens were observed: one on the Essex South route; the other in Denville.
- 17 Horned Larks, the only ones on the count, were in the Denville area.
- Black-capped Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse numbers were below average, a continuing trend. White-breasted Nuthatches were slightly up.
- 3 Red-breasted Nuthatches from the Denville area are the only ones on the count.
- Wrens include a House Wren for the 2nd year in a row (9 times in history); 5 Winter Wrens and 1 Marsh Wren.
- 69 Eastern Bluebirds is double the 21st century average and the highest since the all-time high of 91 in 2001.
- Another species dipping in numbers from last year is American Robin: a record 8,790 in 2013; 562 in 2014.
- 2 Gray Catbirds is average.
- 2,766 European Starlings is about equal to the 10-year average. 17,000 in 2001 skews the century average.
- 5 American Pipits in Florham Park are the first since 2010. Am. Pipits appear on 33% of the 79 Boonton CBCs.
- 11 Cedar Waxwings in Denville are the only ones on the count.
- Yellow-rumped Warblers were low with only 7 reported. 24 is the 21st century average.
- 4 Palm Warblers in Denville is simply astonishing, as well as an all-time high tally. It represents the 9th appearance of this species on the count.
- Eastern Towhee was thought to be missed when the count was first compiled, but one was counted in Denville after all.
- A Chipping Sparrow on the Morris Township-Morris Plains route is an unusual find, although this species has occurred on 27% of the counts.
- 6 Fox Sparrows is 16 below the 21st century average.
- 1,396 Dark-eyed Juncos is 369 above the 21st century average.
- Rusty Blackbird is the most glaring miss of this year’s count. None were found for the first time in 24 years (1990) and missed for only the fourth time in the 79-year history of the count. 1942 and 1944 are the other two years.
- Common Grackles: 3 in 2012; 16,694 in 2013; 4 in 2014. See the Grackle Factor chart above.
- 3 Brown-headed Cowbirds is the 3rd lowest total since 1991. 37 is the average number in all 79 years of the Boonton CBC although their numbers vary wildly from one year to the next.
- 3 Common Redpolls in Denville are the first since 2010.
- 23 Pine Siskins were in Denville.
- 270 American Goldfinches is the highest total since 2004.
A list of the species found on this CBC is at the following link:
Thank you, all participants
A hearty thank you to all who participated in this year’s count. Your hard work is the only reason this report can be written.
Mark your calendar: the preliminary date for next year’s Boonton CBC is December 27, 2015.
A wonderful holiday and birding season to all!
Jonathan Klizas, Compiler
Boonton Christmas Bird Count