Deck the Halls with Bird Counters

  Holiday birders are searching for feathered friends on Lake Mendota during the 2017 Christmas Bird Count. Photo by Carolyn Byers.

Holiday birders are searching for feathered friends on Lake Mendota during the 2017 Christmas Bird Count. Photo by Carolyn Byers.

The 118th Christmas Bird Count period is officially over, and the Madison CBC data has been submitted! Huzzah and thank goodness! It was an awesome year in many ways: over 100 participants, a record 97 species observed (previous record was 95 in 1997 and 1998), 60,151 individual birds counted, 9 species high-counts, and some cool and unusual birds for this time of year (like an ovenbird and Iceland gull!).

Christmas Bird Count is not for the weak of heart. It takes place in the dead of winter, and requires an extraordinary attention span. It looks a little like 17 layers of the warmest long-johns and balaclavas you own to achieve as little skin exposed as possible, and forget about hot cocoa that is just a distraction, but wait I'm freezing while standing around waiting for birds to grace us with their tiny, fluffy presence, oh there goes another robin, whoop-dee-do, let's try a new spot, no wait, what's that, OH MY GOODNESS IT'S AN EASTERN PHOEBE, WHAT IS THAT DOING HERE! Did you mark that down? Are we sure? Ok mark it down. That was cool. Now what else is out there...? My binoculars are frozen to my eye sockets.

  Triumph is just one of the emotions a Christmas Bird Counter feels when reviewing the tally list at the end of the day. Photo by Carolyn Byers

Triumph is just one of the emotions a Christmas Bird Counter feels when reviewing the tally list at the end of the day. Photo by Carolyn Byers

But boy, is it fun. It consists of the perfect stew of birds, bird nerds, and the challenge to overcome the conditions. And at the end of the day, when we sit around a table and eat chili and slowly start to thaw out, it's smiles all around.

The goal of Christmas Bird Count is to tally as many species of birds on one single day as possible to get a snapshot of bird diversity and abundance across the US, Canada, and many other countries in the western hemisphere. To participate you have to join a "circle" -- basically a group of folks who are signed up to survey an area. There are hundreds of circles that survey their area and turn in data, and this century-old activity makes up the longest-running formally organized citizen science program ever. The Madison CBC has been running for 68 years now, and some of the participants have been involved for 30 years or longer!

The recent Madison-area CBC took place on December 16, 2017. We have 23 areas within our circle, and over 100 people joined the count! We a had record-breaking total of 97 species detected on that one day, and high-counts for nine species: greater white-fronted goose, Canada goose -- by about 10,000!, tundra swans, belted king-fisher, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, Eastern phoebe, and white-crowned sparrow. And, as I mentioned, the ovenbird and the Iceland gull were cool finds too. The list of species and counts is below.

The date is set for 2018: Saturday, December 15. Mark you calendars if you'd like to participate, and watch for an email in November about the event!

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Communications Director

Day-of Species:
Greater white-fronted goose: 4
Cackling goose: 8
Canada goose: 25,046
Trumpeter swan: 2
Tundra swan: 3,555
Wood Duck: 4
Gadwall: 156
American black duck: 117
Mallard: 3,239
Northern shoveler: 596
Northern pintail: 4
Green-winged teal: 12
Canvasback: 313
Redhead: 21
Ring-necked duck: 47
Lesser scaup: 355
Long-tailed duck: 1
Bufflehead: 417
Common goldeneye: 798
Hooded merganser: 34
Common merganser: 2,540
Ruddy duck: 5
Ring-necked Pheasant: 5
Wild turkey: 173
Common loon: 7
Pied-billed grebe: 4
Great blue heron: 2
Bald eagle: 44
Northern harrier: 6
Sharp-shinned hawk: 6
Cooper’s hawk: 31
Red-shouldered hawk: 2
Red-tailed hawk: 137
Rough-legged hawk: 3
American coot: 1,398
Sandhill crane: 197
Ring-billed gull: 768
Herring gull: 1,426
Iceland gull: 1
Rock pigeon: 440
Mourning dove: 580
Eastern screech owl: 10
Great horned owl: 25
Barred owl: 4
Northern saw-whet owl: 1
Belted kingfisher: 14
Red-headed woodpecker: 2
Red-bellied woodpecker: 362
Yellow-bellied sapsucker: 4
Downy woodpecker: 412
Hairy woodpecker: 148
Northern flicker: 23
Pileated woodpecker: 1
Eastern phoebe: 2
American kestrel: 3
Merlin: 5
Northern shrike: 5
Blue jay: 494
American crow: 844
Horned lark: 24
Black-capped chickadee: 1,520
Tufted titmouse: 59
Red-breasted nuthatch: 52
White-breasted nuthatch: 478
Brown creeper: 57
Carolina wren: 3
Winter wren: 8
Golden-crowned kinglet: 26
Eastern bluebird: 7
Hermit thrush: 1
American robin: 216
Gray catbird: 1
European Starling: 4,895
Cedar waxwing: 295
Lapland longspur: 1
Snow bunting: 1
Ovenbird: 1
Yellow-rumped warbler: 1
Eastern towhee: 1
American tree sparrow: 652
Fox sparrow: 3
Song sparrow: 31
Lincoln’s sparrow: 1
Swamp sparrow: 12
White-throated sparrow: 37
White-crowned sparrow: 8
Dark-eyed junco: 1,434
Northern cardinal: 748
Red-winged blackbird: 68
Common grackle: 46
House finch: 913
Red crossbill: 1
White-winged crossbill: 2
Common redpoll: 1
Pine siskin: 558
American goldfinch: 768
House sparrow: 2,358

Count week species (those seen 3 days before or after the count, but not the day of):
Snow goose
White-winged scoter
Glaucous gull
Snowy owl
Peregrine falcon
Townsend’s solitaire
Clay-colored sparrow
Rusty blackbird
Purple finch

 

  Canada geese and tundra swans were at an all-time high for the Madison CBC this year. Photo by Monica Hall

Canada geese and tundra swans were at an all-time high for the Madison CBC this year. Photo by Monica Hall