Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Bird Count for 2013

The seventy-first annual Christmas Bird Count for Carter Co., Tenn., is in the books. We’ve had better days and worse days, both weather wise and species-wise. This Saturday was rainy and windy, more like March than a week before Christmas.

There were twenty-four people from the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of the TOS out counting in six groups starting very early in the morning until just about supper time. The peak species count was eighty in 2012. This year we hit seventy-six species which is really quite respectful. The last thirty years the average has been seventy-one species. Either we’re getting better or the mix of the population is changing.

Of course, from one year to the next you have one or two species that show up and one or two that don’t. Owls come to mind. They’re erratic and it doesn’t seem to take much for them to not be calling on that few hour stretch when someone happens to be in the right spot but at the wrong time. If the weather clears and it’s a full moon but a day late, it doesn’t count.

But, after seventy-one years we probably have some trends that might become important in light of the changing environment. The club has gathered a lot of data about a lot of species.

The highest individual count once again goes to the European starling at 3,697 individuals. Some of the “nicer” finds: merlin, white-breasted nuthatch (but no red-breasted nuthatch), grackle, American black duck. Some finds are commonly thought to not be around but really just move around the counties. For example, I haven’t seen a robin in my neighborhood (in Johnson City) since Halloween, but the count found 833 robins scattered out and about in Carter County.

It helps to have twenty-four sets of eyes on the look out.

This particular count started in 1943!