Weather hampers 68th annual Christmas Bird Count
Bird numbers were down for the Baldwin Bird Club’s 68th annual Christmas Bird Count, but it was understandable with both humans and avians involved hampered by bitter cold and snow.
The count was done Dec. 27, just days after the Blizzard of ’09 that hit Baldwin City Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“The Baldwin count was a great success this year due to the fact we were able to drive most of the roads and all participants survived without getting stuck in the huge snow drifts that were abundant on the county and township roads,” said Roger Boyd, president of the bird club. “The weather was cold, with a low of 20 degrees and a high of 28 degrees. The day was cloudy and very windy out of the north all day. Most running and still water was frozen.”
There were 10 people who participated and they were divided into five groups. Another five people spotted and counted birds that came to feeders in town. The count was done between 6:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The groups eyed 73 species of birds.
“This is somewhat lower than the 10-year average of 77 species,” said Boyd. “The record high for the Baldwin count was set in 1999 at 89 species. The total number of individuals recorded this year was 7,777. This is less than half of last year’s count and only about 40 percent of the 10-year average of 19,227. The record high for the Baldwin count was set in 2006 with 52,338 individuals.”
Although the numbers weren’t anything to brag about, there was one surprise.
“For most species this seemed to be a fairly average year,” he said. “There was one new species seen on the count this year and that is Eurasian Collared Dove. They have been seen in Baldwin City for about five years but tend to leave the area in the winter. They were probably originally released in Kansas in the Garden City area about 25 years ago and have increased in distribution every year since.
“There was only one record high for the year and that was seven Winter Wrens,” said Boyd. “Most years we are lucky to find one.”
There were some high numbers found with some species, but mostly the numbers were low because of the weather conditions.
“The species with the highest number of individuals counted this year was Canada Geese with 1,660,” said Boyd. “Second in abundance was Horned Lark with 1,494. Low numbers were more conspicuous than highs this year. This is most likely due to the weather. Severe cold and heavy snow tends to force some species elsewhere in search of food.
“But this year just being able to get into the field to count the birds was severely limited,” he said. “Very few areas were readily accessible on foot so unless the birds were next to the road and quite active they just weren’t included in the survey.”
There were some real low numbers for some species, while others were normal.
“Species that did have much lower numbers than average included most waterfowl, due to limited open water,” said Boyd. “Lone Star was the only significant body of water that was open. Also low in numbers were Northern Flickers, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Red-winged Blackbird — however 400,000 were seen on the Linn Co. CBC on Dec. 26 — and House Sparrow.
“Species that commonly visit feeders, such as Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinals, Purple Finch, House Finch and American Goldfinch, all appear to have been at normal levels,” he said.
The Christmas Bird Count is conducted each year within a two-week period around Christmas and New Year’s. The results are tabulated and published online by the National Audubon Society at http://cbc.audubon.org. The record serves as a means of determining year-to-year or long-term changes in bird populations.
The participants on the 2009 count included Richard Bean, Jan and Roger Boyd, Preston Fambrough, Sandra Johnson, Bootsie Lauridsen, Becky and Danny McMillen, Barbara and Martin Pressgrove, and Urban Wessling all of Baldwin; Ryker Brandt, Gerry Parkinson, Bob Rose, and Stan Roth of Lawrence; and Dan Larson of Topeka. We invite you to join us next year.
The next meeting of the Baldwin Bird Club will be at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 at Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center.
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