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With a Look Back at Last Winter's Bird Counts - Did you know?

Armas Hill has presented the "Birdline", originally from Philadelphia, on the phone and internet for over 3 decades, and on the radio in Delaware for about 10 years.


A List & Photo Gallery of North American Birds, in 6 Parts

A List & Photo Gallery of North American Mammals

This is the Selasphorus Hummingbird.
a probable Rufous,
referred to in the text below
as seen near Little Gap, Pennsylvania
on October 21, 2011.  
(photo courtesy of Rick Wiltraut)

The Birdline for October 25, 2011:

Many of us are looking forward to the CBCs (Christmas Bird Counts) this upcoming winter.

This past week, we received in the mail the 111th Christmas Bird Count publication from the National Audubon Society
In it, there's a summary of the counts that were conducted last December and January, during which thousands of people participated throughout North America and elsewhere. I participated in two of them, one in Pennsylvania and one in Delaware.

Looking through the publication, I found a number of interesting things, some that I did not know. Here, some of these will be shared with you, but first, some notable bird sightings from this past week or so, in the northeast US:

A MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD was seen last week at Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRDS nest in only one US state, Florida.

Seen at Nantucket since then have been SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER and TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE, both birds from further west. Most SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHERS migrate south to Central America for the winter. The TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE winters mainly in the western United States.

There was also a SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER on Long Island, New York, at the Captree Park on October 22.

Also on Long Island, recently, a GRAY KINGBIRD was at Jones Beach the morning of October 15. A WESTERN KINGBIRD was also seen there, later that day. GRAY KINGBIRDS are mostly on Caribbean islands.
A dark SWAINSON'S HAWK was seen at Cape May Point, New Jersey, on October 21 & 22. Another SWAINSON'S HAWK was observed in New Jersey, on October 24, at the Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge. 
Many SWAINSON'S HAWKS winter in Argentina, but not all.

A FRANKLIN'S GULL was found in western Pennsylvania at the Moraine State Park on October 21.
A SABINE'S GULL was in a parking lot in Wells, Maine on October 19.
Both the FRANKLIN'S and the SABINE'S GULLS winter mostly at sea in the Southern Hemisphere.

A SPOTTED TOWHEE (a bird normally in the western US) was spotted in New Jersey at the Liberty State Park on October 22 only.

A TUFTED DUCK (mostly a Eurasian bird) has recently been found in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

An ANHINGA was reported in the sky over Chester County, Pennsylvania, the morning of October 24.

A SELASPHORUS HUMMINGBIRD (from western North America) was seen in Pennsylvania, near Little Gap, on October 21.

A non-bird note: NORTHERN LIGHTS were seen in the sky last night over Pennsylvania, Michigan, and even south to the Southern US.

Now, the interesting items, as promised, from the Bird Counts last winter. Some of which, as I noted, I did not know prior to reading the publication just distributed. If there's something here, one thing or more, that you may not have known, or that you found particularly interesting, please send us an e-mail, if you would, and let us know that.   

It was stated in the first paragraph that thousands of people participated last winter in the annual Christmas Bird Counts. Also, thousands of birds were counted. And hundreds of species.

4 of the "top counts", with more than 150 species were in Texas. 5 were in California. But, referring here to Texas, there were:
Matagorda County (the top count in North America, with 236 species)
Guadelupe River Delta (the second highest count in North America, with 222 species)
Freeport (206 species)
San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (193 species)

Some of the more-rare bird species found during Counts in Texas included:
a BLACK-VENTED ORIOLE and a BLUE BUNTING at Anzalduas-Bentsen,
a GREATER PEWEE at Santa Ana,
a RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN at Laguna Atacosa,
and CRIMSON-COLLARED GROSBEAKS at Corpus Christi and Weslaco.

The BLACK-VENTED ORIOLE is extremely rare in Texas, the bird was the first during a CBC (Christmas Bird Count) anywhere in the US.
The NORTHERN TUFTED FLYCATCHER was first found on November 23, and continued until the Count.

During the CBCs along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, from Texas east to Florida, the most numerous bird, from 1965 to 2011, has been the RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.

The 10 bird species whose populations have increased the most in that Gulf Coast Region, during that time, have been:

The 10 bird species whose populations have decreased the most in that Gulf Coast Region, during that time, have been:
Number #11, by the way, is the RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD, which is still, as noted, the most numerous bird there in the winter.

Whereas there are many birds in the winter in Texas, in Alaska there are not. But an interesting item nonetheless:
Back in 1974, the EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE was introduced accidentally in the Bahama Islands, and it soon spread to Florida. And since then, it has continued to spread.
Yes, even to Alaska, where there has been an explosion of EURASIAN COLLARED DOVES. It was found on a CBC in Alaska 2 years ago for the first time, but last winter a total of 41 were observed on 6 Counts. At Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Mitkof Island, and Cordova.

As an aside here, as an item of interest, not during a CBC, but prior to it, and not last year, but 4 years earlier, there was a remarkable bird occurrence in British Columbia, when a COOK'S PETREL landed within the count circle for Lillooet. It was a first record for Canada, and a significant inland occurrence for North America.
Found on December 7, 2007, the bird appeared after a very intense southwest storm, known as the "Pineapple Express". Sadly, it died 2 days after its discovery (and about 3 weeks prior to the CBC).

Now, after that quick intermission ("did you know?"), back to the continuation of our summary of birds from last winter's counts:

On the other side of North America, in eastern Canada, the weather during the fall of 2010 apparently brought a number of NORTHERN LAPWINGS across the North Atlantic. The species is a rare vagrant to North America. 3 lingered to be tallied on CBCs in the Atlantic Provinces. A pair of NORTHERN LAPWINGS was seen flying south at Antigonish, Nova Scotia, on December 19, 2010.   

Oddly, another related shorebird that normally goes south of Atlantic Canada in the winter is the KILLDEER. Small numbers began to appear along the southern coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in December 2010. The species was then found on Counts in Newfoundland at Ferryland and Cape Race, and in Nova Scotia at Halifax-Dartsmouth, Sheet Harbor, and Glace Bay.
One KILLDEER, during this odd occurrence, even made its way across the North Atlantic, east to the United Kingdom.       

A first for a CBC in Canada was a BLACK-TAILED GULL in St. John's, Newfoundland. The BLACK-TAILED GULL is sometimes called the "JAPANESE GULL" as nearly all of the breeding of that species occurs in Japan.  

If you've ever looked at a map at the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon in the North Atlantic, and wondered what might be there during a Christmas Bird Count, these birds were:
14 hardy RED KNOTS on Miquelon Island,
a winter population of 522 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS (that was more than anywhere in Atlantic Canada),
Although in the North Atlantic, off Canada, the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are a piece of France.  

In Quebec, at the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula, there was an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD at Perce, that appeared in October and stayed until December 24.
Another ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD spent the winter in Pennsylvania, near Shartlesville.
Incredible, both birds, as the species is normally in the winter in the warm American Southwest.

Also from the West, an ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD was during a CBC in Northampton, Massachusetts, a MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE was in Newport County/Westport, Massachusetts/Rhode Island.

In upstate New York, there was a long-staying LEWIS'S WOODPECKER during the CBC for Conesus-Hemlock-Honeoye Lakes.

Downstate in New York, a VARIED THRUSH wintered in Central Park, Manhattan, New York City. It was there for the Lower Hudson CBC.

In Pennsylvania, there was a tally of 357 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS in Southern Bucks County, where there was also a female RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD in Yardley, that had been present since October.
In Berks County, Pennsylvania, there was a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER at Blue Marsh.

Not Blue Mash, as in Maryland, but in that state there was a GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW in Lower Kent County.

A CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD at Tryon, North Carolina, was a new species for a CBC in that state. Also interesting was a total of 83 RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS during Counts along the North Carolina Coast.

In Arkansas, a BARNACLE GOOSE at Pine Bluff was a first state record.   

In California, a WOOD STORK was there for the Escondido Count, present for its 22nd season. Now that's a longevity record of sorts for a single bird.

Back now from the Pacific to the Atlantic, well into the Atlantic:

Bermuda invariably sports a list of "unusual birds". Last year, it did again with: BROWN CREEPER, RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. And, from more-northerly lands, in Bermuda as well were LAPLAND LONGSPUR and COMMON REDPOLL.

In the Caribbean, there was a new Winter Bird Count this past year, in Haiti, at a place called Les Cayes - the place where J.J. Audubon was born. It's only fitting that an Audubon Society Bird Count be conducted there!

Again, if there's been anything in this summation that's been either new or especially interesting to you, please let me know. I'd be glad to hear from you.

Armas Hill has presented the Birdline, originally from Philadelphia, on the phone and internet for decades (3), and on the radio in Delaware for years (10).

The Birdline (and the Natureline) are affiliates of Focus On Nature Tours.  

A Christmas Count in the Caribbean was mentioned in the preceding text. Upcoming Focus On Nature Tours to the Caribbean, for birds & other nature, are scheduled for the months when winter will be with us in North America:

In the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, November 30-December 3, 2011
In Puerto Rico, January 22-27, 2012
In the Dominican Republic, January 28-February 4, 2012
and in the Lesser Antillean islands of Barbuda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, and Dominica, February 4-12, 2012.

Information about these tours & others can be found in the FONT website: www.focusonnature.com          

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