12 January 2017

Colder Temps Mean More Chickadees? AND Local CBCs

I just finished compiling our two local Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) and was looking at all the data over the years.

Does the following seem correct to you?

The colder the temperature, the more chickadees are recorded?

By chickadees, I mean a total of BC, MO, and chickadee sp.
I had to go back in the historical binders, rather than rely on the Audubon website download, because the temperature numbers in the latter are screwy - possibly something to do with conversion to / from Celsius.

I just received all the binders from the retiring, former compiler - pretty good record keeping!  Thank you!

Anyway, field observers find more chickadees the colder it is?  Why?


And: aren't we lucky that participation by people is only slightly affected by temperature!  You field observers are grrrrreat! and tough!  Thanks for turning out at -32 C this year!

Following is a descriptive summary of our two local counts.  For great photos visit the Rocky Mountain Naturalist blog at: RMN Blog - Christmas Bird Count 117


Fifteen field observers in four teams and 10 feeder watchers participated on the Cranbrook Count on the 28th of December, 2016.  Temperatures were chilly that day, starting at -8 C, and snow depth was up to a couple of feet; but the roads were clear.  After a warm autumn and the late arrival of snow, the chill set in quickly the beginning of December.  Many birds were caught off guard then, as was I on Count Day when I was awoken by my cell phone ringing in my ear – I had slept!

A first time on any count for us was Northern Shovelor – four hung around the sewage lagoons from late autumn to be counted!  Now (January), even the top component is frozen over, so I hope the big-bills have found somewhere else to go.

Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye numbers were low, but this year gave us the highest number of Mallards ever!  We’ve averaged 176 over 33 years but this year got a whopping 434 – this even after the city banned feeding them at the Mall last summer. 

Bald Eagle numbers were up a bit – 9 compared to a 4.2 average. 2 Red-taileds and a Cooper’s showed but we dipped on Rough-legged.  Single requisite Pygmy-Owl and Merlin complied.

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers showed good numbers, both a bit above average which is about a dozen each.  Flickers-18 and Pileated-8 likewise.

Our three jays, Gray, Steller’s, and Blue, were more or less average in number – usually a half dozen of each.  We got 7 Blue Jay this year compared to an all-time high of 25 in 2014 – they can be surprisingly quite when they want to.

Clark’s Nutcrackers were down to 3 from the average of 18.L Raven and Crow (American) numbers did a total flip!  We usually get twice as many Ravens as Crows but this year we got 293 Crows and only 188 Ravens!  Very unusual and contrary to our recently updated checklist.  What’s going on there?

Mountain and Black-capped Chickadee are pretty much equal in number here, with this year’s ratio favoring the latter slightly:  BCCH 94 and MOCH 113. No Chestnut-backed compared to 6 two years ago.  Even though they breed just up the Saint Mary’s River a bit, they are usually only a rare winter feeder visitor in the valley – maybe they all head to the West Kootenay side of Purcells in winter.

Red-breasted Nuthatch were up a bit to 51 individuals – still not as high as the maximum of 84 on the 101st count.  One White-breasted was ticked as was a surprise Pygmy Nuthatch at a feeder in count week.  They usually hang around Wycliffe or Fort Steele, not Cranbrook.

Thrushes (TOSO, AMRO) were down or did not show (VATH).  Take away a zero from our high of almost 5000 Bohemian Waxwings in December of 2005 and you will get how many we recorded this year.  So variable! But we average about 900.

House Finch numbers were up a bit (266/214 avg.) but it was an ‘off’ year for the rest of the ‘winter finches’ – Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, and Pine Siskin; Evening Grosbeak were missed completely and zero is quite disappointing compared to the 105 Pine Grosbeaks from last year.  D. Cooper reporting

So the Northern Shovelor gives up a total of 101 species ever seen on the Cranbrook Christmas Bird Count.  Our species count this year, not including the 3 in count week, was spot on average at 42 species, of which we are very proud.

Missed the usual/likely/special:
Great-Blue Heron
Mourning Dove
Pine Grosbeak
White-winged Crossbill
Evening Grosbeak


Fifteen field observers in 5 teams braved the clear bitter morning temperature of -32 C to go count birds from Wycliffe to Wasa, Kootenay Reserve to Kimberley.  A couple of us even cross-country skied the Rails to Trails.  Six feeder counters helped us out, too.  The warmest it got was -18 C.

The cold made for fewer numbers of individual birds (not counters, fortunately); we got three-quarters of what we usually get.  This made the day seem long, and the warm pub promised for the end of the day more inviting, but our species count was actually a bit above average at 43 full species compared to the average of 39 over 25 years.

Waterfowl are always few without warm sewage lagoons like Cranbrook – Wasa Lake is usually frozen – but 19 Common Goldeneye and a Common Merganser were picked up on the St. Mary’s River.  Three teams got Wild Turkey including a flock of 27 in an alley in Chapman Camp.  Then there’s the three that have been hanging out at the Mark Creek Bridge in Marysville for the past few weeks; someone has even put up a “Turkey Crossing” sign because it is such a sharp and blind corner.

Like Cranbrook’s count a week earlier, Bald Eagle numbers were above average with 14 seen in the circle.  Other raptors and such seen were one Golden Eagle, one Northern Goshawk, 2 Red-tailed Hawk, and one Northern Pygmy-Owl.  We’ve dipped on Merlin the last three years in a row! What?

Eurasian Collared-Doves are increasing slowly but steadily from 3 being recorded first on the December 2011 count to 18 this year.  Kimberley usually gets a few more Down, Hairy, and Flickers than Cranbrook and this year did not disappoint with 24, 18, and 33 respectively.  Flicker were particularly higher than the average of 21 and the maximum of 39 recorded on #113 and #115. 

We dipped on Gray Jay but got usual numbers of Steller’s (8) and Blue’s (5).  Our Crows and Ravens did not show the same flip in numbers as Cranbrook Count but our American Crow count was over twice the average (65 seen/26 avg.), perhaps because the CBC coincided with the first day of school; our kids go out at recess even at -18; a guaranteed snack bar is more likely.

Black-capped Chickadee numbers were up, recording 200 individuals, and Mountains were average at 96.  Both nuthatches were low in number (28 and 4) but Kimberley got 3 more White-breasted than Cranbrook.  There are usually a few American Robins around, surprisingly to non- and new birders, and this year there were 5.  A feeder watcher in Wasa managed to turn up a Varied Thrush, and Townsend’s Solitaire numbers were up a bit to 9.  The Mountain Bluebird reported throughout December living at the airport was not picked up.  Hopefully, it was cozy somewhere warm.

Bohemian Waxing numbers were low with only 253 seen out of the usual average of at least a thousand.  Junco numbers were high at two dozen instead of one.  House Finch numbers were also over double the average with almost 200 recorded.  The other winter finches were significantly lower at about a fifth of what is usually seen, except for American Goldfinch which was double the average at 26 recorded.  D. Cooper reporting.

Missed the usual/likely/special:
Gray Jay
Brown Creeper
Pine Grosbeak
House Sparrow

Dianne C.

No comments:

Post a Comment