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Christmas Bird Count 2020

Christmas Bird Count 2020
Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Sixty-three species were seen (Table 1) by 43 people counting birds on Jan. 2, 2021 for the Grand Rapids Audubon Count. There were 38 field observers and 8 bird feeder watchers with three participants doing both field and feeder observations. The annual bird count is held during a two-week period near Christmas. The GRAC count is usually held the Saturday after Christmas. During some years that results in it being in the following calendar year but it is still considered a count for the previous year. Our count was in 2021 but is considered a 2020 bird count.  

The Canada goose was one of the most-sighted birds in the annual Christmas Bird Count for 2020, according to the table below. Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Total individuals sighted was 8805. During the last four years, more birds were seen two of the years and two years had fewer sightings. Open flowing water and partly frozen still water provided opportunity to see more water birds. 

The day was cloudy with the temperature between 29º and 34ºF. Three inches of snow covered most of the areas. The count circle has the same 7.5-mile radius from the Honey Creek and 2 Mile Road intersection annually.

There were 24 birding parties in the morning, 16 in the afternoon and 8 feeder watchers. To prevent double counting only the highest number for each species observed in the feeder area at one time is counted. We totaled 78.5 hours traveling in vehicles for 675.6 miles. 17 hours was on foot covering 31 miles and 23 hours was feeder watching. A combined total of 706.5 miles was on foot and driving. We had 118 hours of daytime birding. 

For Covid-19 safety precautions, we social distanced, had no public gathering, birded alone or with immediate household members and compiling was done by email. That resulted in greater area coverage intensity with smaller survey areas and likely increased the number of birds being sighted. Participants e-mailed species sightings with numbers seen to count coordinators. 

In the predawn, 14.5 miles was traveled during 2.5 hours listening for owls. One Eastern Screech Owl, four Great Horned Owls, and one Barred Owl were heard. One owl sighted was not seen well enough to be identified but was either a Great Horned or Barred Owl.

Four additional species were sighted during count week and listed as cw in Table 1. Count week numbers are not included with the count day tally submitted to National Audubon. The Christmas bird count is the longest running citizen science program and provides data useful for scientists to evaluate range changes and population fluctuations. This was the 121st count since the program began. 

Table 1 GRAC Xmas  Bird Count
Snow Goose25
Canada Goose2100
Mute Swan46
Trumpeter Swan2
American Black Duck4
Ring-necked Duck1
Common Goldeneye37
Hooded Merganser3
Common Merganser14
Wild Turkey9
Great Blue Heron2
Sharp-shinned Hawk3
Cooper’s Hawk8
Bald Eagle6
Red-shouldered Hawk5
Red-tailed Hawk41
Ring-billed Gull39
Herring Gull10
gull (sp.)2
Rock Pigeon (feral)196
Mourning Dove358
Eastern Screech Owl1
Great Horned Owl4
Barred Owl1
owl (sp.)1
Belted Kingfisher4
Red-bellied Woodpecker70
Downy Woodpecker158
Hairy Woodpecker46
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)16
Pileated Woodpecker15
American Kestrel3
Blue Jay 189
American Crow404
Horned Lark21
Black-capped Chickadee530
Tufted Titmouse223
Red-breasted Nuthatch39
White-breasted Nuthatch139
Brown Creeper7
Winter Wren1
Carolina Wren16
Golden-crowned Kinglet6
Eastern Bluebird99
American Robin47
European Starling1021
Cedar Waxwing144
Yellow-rumped Warbler1
American Tree Sparrow130
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)378
Song Sparrow13
Swamp Sparrow1
Northern Cardinal367
Brown-headed Cowbird2
Evening Grosbeak6
House Finch195
Common Redpoll201
Pine Siskin11
American Goldfinch199
House Sparrow439

63 species on count day

4 Count Week species added:
Cackling Goose cw
Tundra Swan cw
Long-tailed Duckcw
Common Looncw

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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