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-

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