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Tag Archive | "bird count"

Winter Bird Sightings

by Range Steve Mueller


What species were present or absent during the Grand Rapids Audubon Bird Count on 30 Dec 2017? No gulls were seen. Only two other years during the 31 years I have coordinated the count were gulls absent in the Kent County Count area. Carolina Wrens have become regular since the turn of the century but were only seen 7 times between 1953 and 2000. 

Both the White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows were rare sightings during the 1900s but the white-throated has been sighted most of the past ten years. I suspect some sightings might have been misidentifications like the 15 Chipping Sparrows sighted in 1992. It is highly unusual for one Chipping Sparrow to be here in the winter and 15 is not likely. 

Evening Grosbeaks were seen most years between 1970 and 1990 but were absent before and after those decades. Red-winged Blackbird populations were high during the 1960s and their numbers have declined dramatically since. I conducted a spring blackbird nesting survey in 1970 and have never again seen the density of nests I found then.

Bird populations fluctuate for many reasons. Blackbirds have been sprayed with a chemical used to cause death so they do not compete with humans for crops. Climate change is impacting bird distribution and altering survival chances. Seasonal winter weather fluctuations (different from climate change) that are warm, cold, snowy, or dry influence bird annual distribution.
Fifty-six species were seen (Table 1) by 41 field observers and 2 bird feeder watchers. One Winter Wren and one Eastern Towhee were recorded during count week. The three days before and after count day are reported separately from count day species. Count week sightings document winter presence in the area but are statistically evaluated differently from count day sightings.

Total individuals sighted was 6,161. That is down considerably from last year’s 9,342 and almost half the number sighted (11,246) two years ago. Travel conditions and weather were unexpectedly good. Only light snow fell in the morning and the sky cleared for the afternoon. 

We experienced 80 percent cloud cover in the a.m. and 20 percent in the afternoon. Temperature was between 7 and 15 F. A steady NW wind was 8-18 mph. Snow cover depth was 4 to 12 inches. Moving Water was partly open and still water was frozen.

We totaled 65.5 hours in vehicles traveling 529 miles. We spent 14.25 hours on foot, covering 16.75 miles and 9 hours at feeders. A combined total of 545.75 miles were on foot and driving. Groups totaled 88.75 hours of daytime birding. There were 16 birding parties in the morning and 10 in the afternoon, with two feeder watchers.

In the predawn, 11 miles were traveled during one and half hours looking for owls.  

Wittenbach/Wege Agri-science and Environmental Education Center (WWC) co-hosted the count with Audubon. We appreciate use of the facility as our base station. Visit and enjoy the WWC trails. 

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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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

A Golden Eagle was spotted int he recent Christmas Bird Count.

By Steve Mueller

2010 Kent County Christmas bird count

Held January 1, 2011

The annual bird count is a fun out endeavor. This year’s was held January 1, 2011. If you would like to participate next year contact Ranger Steve.

Forty-nine participants observed 57 species of birds on count day. No owls were sighted this year during count day nocturnal searches, and no additional bird species were added during count week. Total individuals sighted on count day were 10227.

Two unexpected and rewarding species sightings were an American Pipit sighted by Nathan and Zachary DeBrine and a Golden Eagle by Bill Sweetman. Red-shouldered Hawk was in the area again this winter. A beautiful male Ring-necked Pheasant paraded his beauty; a lone Red-winged Blackbird and single Pied-billed Grebe were also sighted.

The 49 participants included two bird feeder watchers. The other 47 were in a field in the morning with 29 continuing throughout the afternoon. There were 18 morning parties and 11 afternoon parties beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. Conditions were sunny and a comfortable 42 F to start the morning. Cloud cover increased from 10 percent to 85 percent during the day, with temperature dropping to a low of 25F. Snow flurries did not begin until the count had concluded but the wind increased from 10 mph to 25 mph. Birds were difficult to locate in the afternoon windy conditions.

We totaled 82.75 hours with cars traveling 756.5 miles. On foot we spent 12.75 hours covering 21.25 miles. An additional 8 hours was feeder-watching. A total of 777.75 miles accounted for walking and driving. The total birding hours was 95.50 not including 3 hours owling for 27.5 miles.

Mark your calendars now for the December 31, 2011 count.

Contact Ranger Steve with inquiries and suggestions for Nature Niche Topics odybrook@chartermi.net or 616-696-1753.

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