christmas bird count

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

Christmas Bird Count - MAS Chapter Results

Christmas Bird Count 2016 - MAS Chapter Results

Pardeeville Christmas Bird Counters Jane Considine (left) and Maddie Dumas (right) bundle up during their 2016 count.

Pardeeville Christmas Bird Counters Jane Considine (left) and Maddie Dumas (right) bundle up during their 2016 count.

For 117 years, birders have banded together to brave the cold, escape from the holiday madness, and count as many birds as possible in a day. Christmas Bird Count is a wrap for 2016, with 12 groups and 411 birders within Madison Audubon’s chapter lines reporting data on nearly 100,000 individual birds in a two-week time frame! Congratulations CBC coordinators and volunteers, for a great year!

CBC 2016 Results

Baraboo (coordinated by Scott Swengel) – Dec. 27 – 63 counters – 8,976 birds – 60 species. Rare finds: Wood duck, hooded merganser, golden eagle, eastern phoebe, Townsend’s solitaires, field sparrow. Download data here.

Clyde (coord: Steven Greb) – Dec. 28 – 14 counters – 4,268 birds – 54 species. Rare finds: Goldeneye, grackle, goshawk. Download data here.

Horicon Marsh (coord: Jeff Bahls) – Dec. 19 – 13 counters – 3,699 birds – 35 species.

Madison (coord: Aaron Stutz) – Dec. 17 – 120 counters – 26,000+ birds – 89 species. Rare finds: Pine warblers, summer tanager. Noteable misses: Ring-necked pheasant. Download data here.

Mount Horeb (coord: Kerry Beheler) – Jan. 1 – 55 counters – 8,019 birds – 54 species. Rare finds: sharp-shinned hawk, northern saw-whet owl, long-eared owl, fox sparrow, chipping sparrow. Noteable misses: Red-headed woodpeckers. Download data here.

Pardeeville (coord: Paul and Glenna Schwalbe) – Dec. 15 – 27 counters – 9,953 birds – 56 species. Rare finds: Gadwall, long-eared owl, white-crowned sparrow, ruffed grouse, ravens.

A pair of bald eagles spotted on the Poynette Christmas Bird Count.  Photo by Maddie Dumas

A pair of bald eagles spotted on the Poynette Christmas Bird Count. Photo by Maddie Dumas

Poynette (coord: Mark Martin and Sue Foote-Martin) – Dec. 31 – 47 counters – 8.743 birds – 59 species. Rare finds: peregrine falcon, northern pintails, great blue heron, sharp-shinned hawk, belted kingfisher. Download summary here.

Randolph (coord: Jeff Bahls) – Dec. 21 – 9 counters -- 11,023 birds -- 31 species. Rare species: Brown thrasher, Eurasian collared dove. Download data here.

Richland Center (coord: Robert Hirschy) – Dec. 18 – 30 counters – 7,209 birds – 34 species. Rare finds: American pipit, Carolina wren, white-crowned sparrow, Lapland longspurs. Download data here.

Waterloo (coord: Karen Etter Hale) – Dec. 19 – 33 counters – 8,878 birds – 49 species. Rare finds: Wood duck, short-eared owl. Download summary here.

 

Columbus and Sauk City data not available

Poynette Christmas Bird Count: Goose Pond Highlights

The December 26, 2015 Goose Pond count area of the Poynette Christmas Bird Count was the best ever in the past 16 counts.

Photo by Mark Martin

Photo by Mark Martin

The 2,200 acre Goose Pond count area includes Madison Audubon’s 660 acres at Goose Pond Sanctuary, and surrounding lands. Jim Hess and Bill Walters assisted with the count, as they have for many years. We all enjoy the comraderie of our day together hiking around the sanctuary and counting our feathered friends.

Thanks to the record setting El Niño, Goose Pond had open water for the first time in the 44-year history of the Poynette Count! Thirty four species have been recorded on 15 previous counts. This year, cackling geese (3), trumpeter swans (8), tundra swans (191), and American black duck were added to the Goose Pond list that now stands at 38 species.   

The eight trumpeter swans were a highlight. The family unit of a pair and six young was a joy to watch on the water. One adult was collared with a yellow collar and was banded/collared by the DNR on August 27, 2008 as a young bird, sex unknown, adjacent to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County. It is encouraging to see these birds at the sanctuary.  

Last year, Goose Pond was frozen hard and we were lucky to count 600 Canada geese flying around.  This year, however, 3,300 Canada geese were counted! Sixty one mallards and 42 ring-billed gulls also enjoyed the open water.

The large number of geese helped to bring our total bird numbers to 3,878 for the day, setting a record for Christmas Bird Counts at Goose Pond. The second highest count year was in 2000 with 2,727 birds. That year, the total included a flock of 2,000 Lapland longspurs.

Photo by S.Wong, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by S.Wong, Flickr Creative Commons

Usually, the most numerous feeder birds at our Goose Pond count are the mourning dove, American tree sparrow and dark-eyed junco. In 2014, only one mourning dove was counted, compared to 116 this year! We also counted 63 tree sparrows (compared to 54 in 2014) and 22 juncos (compared to 27 in 2014).

Our high count of ring-necked pheasants was in 2007 before the hard winter of 2008 when we found 226 pheasants. This year we were pleased to find 22 pheasants in our corn food plots.

Other birds of interest included a great horned owl, one American kestrel, and two adult bald eagles. The eagles were probably hunting waterfowl and have been present most of the fall and early winter, largely thanks to the late open water on the pond.

Photo by Arlene Koziol

Photo by Arlene Koziol

Jim, Bill and I are already looking forward to the 2016 Christmas Bird Count on December 31, 2016!  Our guess is that the 2016 count will be more like past counts with a frozen Goose Pond.

Mark Martin, Goose Pond Sanctuary co-manager