Southwest Morris Winter Count

The 32nd Annual Southwest Morris Winter Bird Count was held on Sunday, January 17, 2016.

A summary is below. The complete list of species observed in 32 years is here.

Weather conditions were cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the 38 degree Fahrenheit range as the day progressed. A light snow fell in the mid-to late afternoon as the temperature dropped.

81 species were tallied. The continuing Long-tailed Duck of Clyde Potts Reservoir is a first-time occurrence for the count.

Chester is the center point for the count circle. Most of the routes are in Morris County. A few routes spill into Warren and Sussex Counties.

The following compilation and notes are by the count’s founder, David Harrison. Significant species, whether found or missed, are in bold letters.

Cackling Goose – 1 (only the 3rd time on count)
Canada Goose – 6423
Mute Swan – 25
Wood Duck – 1
Gadwall – 10
American Wigeon (missed for only the 11th time on count)
American Black Duck – 38
Mallard – 231 (lowest total ever)
Northern Pintail (missed for only the 9th time on count)
Green-winged Teal – 17
Ring-necked Duck – 89
Greater Scaup – 1 (only the 4th time on count)
Lesser Scaup – 10 (only the 8th time on count)
Long-tailed Duck – 1 (first time ever on count)
Bufflehead – 4
Common Goldeneye – 1
Hooded Merganser – 99 (new high count)
Common Merganser – 245 (new high count)
Ruddy Duck – 59
Wild Turkey – 37
Ring-necked Pheasant – 1
Pied-billed Grebe – 2 (only the 9th time on count)
Great Blue Heron – 8
Black Vulture – 35
Turkey Vulture – 43
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Cooper’s Hawk – 5
Bald Eagle – 6 (new high count and only the 10th time on count)
Red-shouldered Hawk (missed for only the 10th time on count)
Red-tailed Hawk – 22
American Coot – 4
Killdeer – 10
Wilson’s Snipe – 2
Ring-billed Gull – 890
Herring Gull – 262
Lesser Black-backed Gull – 1 (only the 3rd time on count)
Great Black-backed Gull – 6
Rock Pigeon – 113
Mourning Dove – 184
Eastern Screech Owl – 8
Great Horned Owl – 8
Barred Owl – 3
Long-eared Owl – 1 (only the 7th time on count)
Belted Kingfisher – 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 66
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 4
Downy Woodpecker – 68
Hairy Woodpecker – 17
Northern Flicker – 7
Pileated Woodpecker – 14 (new high count)
Merlin – 1 (only the 6th time on count)
Blue Jay – 357
American Crow – 1567
Fish Crow – 297 (new high count)
Common Raven – 3 (only the 9th time on count)
Horned Lark (missed for only the 9th time on count)
Black-capped Chickadee – 110
Tufted Titmouse – 127
Red-breasted Nuthatch (missed for only the 8th time on count)
White-breasted Nuthatch – 98
Brown Creeper – 4
Winter Wren – 6
Carolina Wren – 15
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 1 (lowest total ever)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (missed for only the 4th time on count)
Eastern Bluebird – 80
Hermit Thrush – 5
American Robin – 1224
Gray Catbird – 4
Northern Mockingbird – 8
European Starling – 420
Cedar Waxwing – 32
Yellow-rumped Warbler (missed for only the 3rd time on count)
American Tree Sparrow – 40 (lowest total ever)
Field Sparrow – 1
Fox Sparrow – 4
Dark-eyed Junco – 703
White-throated Sparrow – 194
Song Sparrow – 86
Swamp Sparrow – 6
Northern Cardinal – 86
Red-winged Blackbird – 251
Rusty Blackbird (missed for only the 3rd time on count)
Common Grackle – 7400
Brown-headed Cowbird (missed for only the 6th time on count)
House Finch – 104
Purple Finch – 4
Pine Siskin – 3
American Goldfinch – 44
House Sparrow – 229

Significant birds (both missed and found) are based on species that were previously found only on about 1/3 of the counts (for significant finds) or at least 2/3 of the counts (for significant misses). I consider it a minor miss if a bird had been seen on about 1/3 of previous counts. Those species were as follows: Ruffed Grouse (11), Northern Harrier (16), American Kestrel (17), Savannah Sparrow (11), White-crowned Sparrow (13) and Eastern Towhee (12). Ruffed Grouse will fall out of this category soon but it will take a few more years before Kestrel does (it has been on over half of the counts).

Total number of species – 81 (previous 10-year mean and median was 84, but 32-year averages were about 79). Misses=9; Good finds=9.

Overall, I’d say an average year and much better than last year. I find the sparrow situation the most troubling, particularly the long-time downward trend for Tree Sparrow.

– Dave Harrison

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