Date: 1/25/18 9:37 am
From: Bob Schutsky <info...>
The 42nd annual Southern Lancaster County Christmas Bird Count was
conducted 17 December 2017. A total of 107 species was tallied, 5 above
our annual average of 102. Sixty-four people participated. The
temperature ranged for 24 to 43F. Skies were partly cloudy, with little
or no breeze all day. There was no rain or snow. Ponds and lakes were
partly frozen, but moving water was completely open. Octoraro Lake was
almost totally frozen, which certainly decreased waterfowl numbers and
diversity. Perhaps the most unusual bird of the day was a Blue-gray
Gnatcatcher found along the railroad tracks between Muddy Run and
Fishing Creek. The only previous record was one found on the 1986 CBC.

No new species were found, so the 42-year composite list remains at 175.
The female Rufous Hummingbird that has visited a Quarryville backyard
for three consecutive fall seasons was seen during count week last year,
but not on the actual day of the count. Count week includes the three
days before and after count day. It remained until late November this
year. I hope that someday one will be seen on count day!

Three Redheads and two Long-tailed Ducks were the most unusual waterfowl
of the day. There were four Cackling Geese; the previous high count is
six. Two Common Loons were calling and fishing on the Susquehanna
River. A single Double-crested Cormorant was perched on a log in mid-river.

Bald Eagles continue their steady population increase, with 103 tallied
this year and in 2016. These are the only two years that numbers have
exceeded 100. None were found in the first three years of the count,
and numbers did not exceed single digits until 1988. The ban of DDT and
a strong PA hacking program were instrumental in the comeback of our
national symbol in Pennsylvania. Peregrine Falcons have shown a similar
increase, but on a much smaller scale. The most that we have ever
tallied was six in 2016. Ten Red-shouldered Hawks were found this year.
The record is 12 in 2016.

An Iceland Gull was on the Susquehanna at Peach Bottom, eating the chum
that Dan Heathcote and I were tossing into the river. There are four
previous records for this unusual gull. A single Lesser Black-backed
Gull was observed at the same location. The record high is six in 2006.
Bonaparte’s Gull has become almost annual, with three seen this year.
Large numbers of this species are occasionally found, with a previous
high count of 850 in 2001.

Five species of owls were tallied. In addition to the more common
Eastern Screech (54) and Great Horned (29), were Northern Saw-whet (6),
Barred (5), and a single Long-eared Owl. The big irruption of Snowy
Owls in the northeast and mid-west this season did not produce a Snowy
for the Solanco CBC. Many people were searching, with no luck.
Woodpeckers were tallied in roughly average numbers, with the exception
of Red-headed Woodpecker, which once again was not seen. They have
become very difficult to find in the southern part of the county.
Twenty-nine Pileated Woodpeckers is a very good number. From 0 to 5
were found in the first 14 years of the count. The record high is 34 in
2012. Their numbers have increased dramatically.

Common Raven is also undergoing an increase. The first year that it was
found on this count was 2011. It has been seen every year since, with
four this year. The record high is 9 in 2016. There was a low count of
two Red-breasted Nuthatches, compared to 42 last year, and a high count
of 118 in 2005. House Wren is found approximately every other year,
with one this year. Brown Thrasher is seen about one out of every three
years, so the single bird this year was a good find. Gray Catbird is
rarely missed. Three were found this year. The only warblers located
were Yellow-rumped (19), and a single Palm Warbler.

Chipping Sparrow has been seen in 9 of the most recent 13 years, with
four this year. It was rarely seen in the early years of the count. A
single Snow Bunting was a good find. All of the blackbird species were
tallied in relatively low numbers. The large flocks simply were not
present. None of the relatively rare Brewer’s or Yellow-headed
Blackbirds was seen. And finally, our only winter-type finches were
four Purple Finches and two Pine Siskins. Winter finches have not moved
south in any numbers this year.

A big thank you to everyone who helped on the 2017 CBC. I continue to
enjoy organizing and compiling this count since my former co-worker
Nancy Magnusson and I founded it in 1976. Please join us on the 43rd
Solanco CBC, which is scheduled for 16 December 2018.


BOB SCHUTSKY, Solanco CBC Compiler
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