Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 West Campus Christmas Bird Count

American Robin
Once again this year the plan was set to have a Christmas Bird Count modelled after the National Audubon Societies annual bird survey that is now in it's 111th year. This year only two brave birders gathered in the early morning light to search over the 136 acres of West Campus on Wednesday. The snow storm that hit the state on Sunday and Monday left over 15 inches of snow on the ground with drifts up to 30 inches. All the snow limited the off road searches limiting the total time from 7am to 12 noon.

Lourdes by the stream
Lynn and Lourdes were able to pull in a respectable 27 species found throughout the day. A few easy species were missing but a couple of good birds did make an appearance. A few things that we missed but should have found include Tufted Titmouse, Northern Mockingbird, and White-breasted Nuthatch. One of the not looked for species was the Mute Swan, two flew over campus fairly low as we were working along the edge of a parking lot. That's a new species for West Campus, number 105!

The Oyster River

Here's the list with numbers:
Canada Goose-71
Mute Swan- 2
Wild Turkey- 4
Red-tailed Hawk- 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk- 1
Merlin- 1
Ring-billed Gull-11
Herring Gull- 6
Greater Black-backed Gull- 2
Flicker- 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker- 1
Hairy Woodpecker- 1
Downy Woodpecker- 3
Mourning Dove- 13
Rock Pigeon- 15
Hairy Woodpecker
American Crow- 108
Blue Jay- 4
Black-capped Chickadee- 16
European Starling- 75
American Robin- 22
White-throated Sparrow- 40
Song Sparrow- 1
Northern Cardinal- 19
Carolina Wren- 1
House Finch- 1
American Goldfinch- 10
Hermit Thrush- 3

Snowy Walk

The surprise of the day was the three Hermit Thrushes that were popping around by the leaf pile when I stopped on the way out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Bird Count Forecast

The window has opened for the 2010 Christmas Bird Count organized by the National Audubon Society. Count areas all over the state have begun to survey their respective regions; others are making game plans. The official bird count is only a 24-hour period in which species within a defined geographical area can be recorded. Although, with so many rare species making stop bys there is also another category which is the count week and includes the three days prior to and after the actual count day.

This past weekend was the New Haven Bird Count with an estimated 100 or more birders scouring the areas around New Haven for birds. I participated in one region of the count where we tallied 62 species. As you can read in last years blog of about this same time, West Campus technically falls within the New Haven regions count. Since Sue and I have both done counts in other areas for many years, West Campus doesn't get counted. So, for the next two days I will be keeping my eyes out for any species that may not have made their list already.

Rusty Blackbird (on the wish list)-
We still want to ensure that we have a survey of the species that are using West Campus as a winter home. To do that, we will be having our own mini Christmas bird count over the winter break. A small group has been formed that will go out and survey the 136-acre campus! When the tally is made we can use that information and the results from last years count to see what has been going on on campus. Having already done two counts I can already make some predictions about what we will find - especially adding in the last two weeks of bird watching around campus.

Fall started of with a quick cold snap before warming back up and keeping a lot of migrants around longer than they would normally have hung on. Up until a couple of weeks ago, we had species numbers close to 30 with very little effort put into the actual search. Now the temperatures have dropped and the species have reflected that temperature; most of the species still lingering are our 'winter birds'. Luckily, we have some very vibrant winter birds to keep birding entertaining. I expect Blue Jay and Northern Cardinal numbers to be up this year!

Northern Cardinal-
If we look back way in the spring, temperatures were cooler than usual, which led to many food sources ripening later. The late fruits have now been picked fairly clean by normal migrants and some of our lingering summer birds. Species like American Robin, Gray Catbirds, and Brown Thrasher are likely to have pulled out and headed south. One species that has used the late warm weather to advantage is the Carolina Wren that spends the summer months devouring all matters of insects. A very healthy population should be prevalent and numbers should be up.

Carolina Wren-
One species I am hoping for to show up on the count this year is the Red-shouldered Hawk. We have Red-tailed Hawks on campus every day but there is a chance for it's slightly smaller cousin to be hunting down near our stream. Other species that could be added to the one day count list would be Pine Siskin and White-winged Crossbill. We have had Pine Siskin on campus only once but there are a greater number in the area this year than last, increasing our chances of seeing one next week. White-winged Crossbill would be a great bird, a northern species with a few over shooting the normal range and coming into Connecticut. A few have recently been spotted in the state, so we will keep a vigilant eye.

Red-shouldered Hawk-
The past few weeks of Campus Birding have yielded around 20 species, snow on Christmas may add an interesting twist to what may be predicted now. As always, we will keep our eyes and ears cued in on our feathered friends.
White-winged Crossbill-

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Lonely Birder

Blue Jay over by the highway

The first thing that you may notice from this post is that you have a new author.  Sue the normal writer of Birding West Campus decided that the birds here in West Haven/Orange just weren't exciting enough and so for the month she will be off viewing exotic birds.  I'll let her fill you in on her trip if she so chooses on her return.

In the meanwhile, I will be trying to self-motivate in an effort to keep track on the birds visiting here at West Campus.  It seems only right that the birds, in an effort to help, should come in droves and keep the excitement levels up.  Instead this was one of the quietest weeks we have had since last winter.  It may indeed be a sign of what's to come in the following months.  I'll just hope that the birds are taking a break and will be back on Monday.

Red-tailed Hawk watching the Morgan Lane gate

I went out a couple of times at lunch this week and had the most luck today as far as diversity goes.  The other times I've gone out it has been pretty paltry.  Here's the quick list of what's been seen.

1. American Crow- Covrus brachyrhynchos
2. Fish Crow- Corvus ossifragus
3. Blue Jay- Cyanocitta cristata
4. Red-tailed Hawk- Buteo jamaicensis
5. Sharp-shinned Hawk- Accipiter striatus
6. Ring-billed Gull- Larus delewarensis
7. Herring Gull- Larus argentatus
8. Turkey Vulture- Cathartes aura
9. Black-capped Chickadee- Poecile atricapillus
10. Downy Woodpecker- Picoides pubescens
11. Red-bellied Woodpecker- Melanerpes carolinus
12. American Goldfinch- Carduelis tristis
13. Dark-eyed Junco- Junco hyemalis
14. American Turkey- Meleagris gallopavo
15. Rock Pigeon- Columba livia
16. European Starling- Sturnus vulgaris
17. American Robin- Turdus migratorius
18. Canada Goose- Branta canadensis
19. White-throated Sparrow- Zonotrichia albicollis
20. Northern Cardinal- Cardinalis cardinalis
21. Mourning Dove- Zenaida macroura
22. House Finch- Carpodacus mexicanus
A total of 22 species isn't too shabby. 

Black-capped Chickadee checking me out

It is definitely a good time to keep our eyes open for some rare birds.  Recently around CT there have been a number of birds from the West Coast, South America, and Europe all stopping in to visit.  There's always a chance one could make a rest stop here as well.

Mice moved into one of the bird houses
If you feel a hankering to go take a walk around campus at lunch time to see some birds, I'd be more than willing to have some company.  
by Lynn Jones