Christmas Bird Count 2015

ChristmasBirdFor me, I am like a kid waiting for Christmas morning when it comes to the annual Christmas Bird Count. The anticipation with getting up early… 4ish or so to go owling, wondering what will we see, record number birds, record bird sightings, etc. … all of it is wrapped up in excitement!!! Although not all of the data is in for the 2015 Augusta Christmas Bird Count, e.g. number of hours, mileage, etc., and the Waynesboro count isn’t until the first weekend in January, we do have the basic Augusta information showing a total of 77 species and five additional species for the count week. One of the count week species was a tragic statistic and that being our one and only Fox Sparrow was a window strike at one of my friend’s house!  …. not something I look forward to hearing!

I always look at YuLee Larner‘s handwritten records for a quick comparison of Allen Larner’s list of birds and YuLee’s data to see high and low numbers as well as species seen and not seen in any given year. As I was going through the list, one record jumped  out at me…… 255 Evening Grosbeaks (EVGR) on Dec. 31, 1977!!

Evening Grosbeck. Photo credit: Daniel Arndt through Flickr Creative Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Evening Grosbeak. Photo credit: Daniel Arndt, Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.

The grosbeaks piqued my interest and with a little research on line I found an interesting article from BirdSource that provides CBC data showing changes in EVGR numbers between 1960 and 1998 along with an animated map of distribution between 1988 and 1998. Several speculations or possibilities about the decline were noted. EVGRs may not be moving as far south during winter due to warmer temperatures.  Second, decline of food availability due to changes in Canadian forestry practices and lastly, numbers in the East may be stabilizing in the north woods east of the Great Lakes. EVGRs did not occur east of the Great Lakes prior to late nineteenth century.

All I know or can imagine is what an exciting CBC that must have been in 1977!  As always … something new and/or old grabs my attention and leaves me waiting with great enthusiasm for the next CBC. However, in the interim, we have the annual ‘Great Backy‘ to anticipate. Dates for this event are February 12-15th …. more on that later!

Happy New Year!!

– Penny Warren, Cohort I
President, Augusta Bird Club
Master Naturalist, Headwaters Chapter