On Sunday December 29 Concord CBC launched its sixtieth count day in calm dry weather with icy patches and treacherous walking on the popular trails. Final participation data are not compiled at this time, but we average 175 field participants and 100 feeder counters with some overlap for a total turnout of about 260 to an occasional 300 on counts that occur after the New Year holiday.
An early December deep freeze may have encouraged many of our birds to book a flight south. Our count day total of 24,825 notched record low abundance and species count plummeted to a ten-year nadir of 73. Compare this with last year’s 52,500 and 88 (with consideration of the Wayland Wash Brook 20,000 robin roost boost). The big freeze closed our ponds and lakes except Hager Pond, which must be situated over a hot spring, but rivers were mostly open with ice-shelved shoulders and coves, and we had a few species of ducks including gadwall, mallard, American black duck, six mallard-black duck hybrids, Northern pintail, green-winged teal, and both common and hooded mergansers. First count records show mallard and American black duck reversed in numbers with black duck (20) and mallard (2) on the first count. Wood duck rarely appears but a gorgeous male was spotted in Concord a day late and was enrolled in count week. Mute swans were reduced and a typical number of Canada gees! e grazed agricultural fields.
Rare bird records this year were two SORA lingering along a spot of open water with three VIRGINIA RAILS in Concord’s Great Meadows. This is the seventh occurrence and first in forty years for sora. Many thanks to our expert medical and ornithological staff (MDs and PhDs) who open a practice at Great Meadows every year and put in a long day, walking ten miles for us. Next year we may add a podiatrist to the team.
High counts include RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (10), MARSH WREN (11), and an astounding tally of 41 WINTER WRENS, slaying in a single day 2014’s record 17. If there is a wet woodland or marsh edge with thicket tangles, fallen trees and upturned roots one might hear (if not see) this tiny mite of a bird with an exceptionally large personality. Carolina wren (261), though not quite surpassing a record, has repopulated our circle after a bad winter for them several years ago. Call this the Year of the Wren. PINE WARBLER (8) doubled its 2005 record, with four seen at one time by a veteran birder in the Stow sector. GREAT HORNED OWL (67) may achieve a record high count adjusted for participation level, but in absolute number falls short by single individual. CHIPPING SPARROW (5) showed an uptick and is now reliable on the count. We may have a new high for SONG SPARROW (671), but adjusted for lower participation level the 1970 tally of 260 individuals may prevail.
AMERICAN TREE SPARROW (313) hit a record low count, continuing a trend. If not for the hospitality of the Concord and Wayland sectors we’d only have 36! Winter habitat loss caused by mowing and edge clearing on upland town agricultural fields may account for low numbers going forward and weather, climate, and migratory patterns over time should be considered. Gulls are the same old story retold every year.
Birds we don’t see every count also include EASTERN TOWHEE (2) which appears to glom on to a feeder for the winter, and count week birds including WOOD DUCK (1), RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (1), and EASTERN PHOEBE (1). Two unconfirmed count week reports of black vulture (3) and golden eagle (1) remain undocumented and lower case at this writing.
The record of sixty years shows some dramatic changes and switch-a-roos for many species including mallard and black duck, house finch and purple finch, and declining numbers and occurrences for the once reliable and abundant winter finches such as evening grosbeak (1,672 in 1983) and pine siskin (1,258 in 1977); Eastern meadowlark was irregular but reliable; American kestrel was an annual participant in the count and today we are fortunate to see a single individual; ring-necked pheasant and ruffed grouse once appeared on every tally until the last decade of the 20th Century and now have vanished. New birds such as red-bellied woodpecker sashayed in around 1980 along with an abundance of common feeder birds such as tufted titmouse and Northern cardinal.
Many thanks to our sector coordinators for all their work reaching out to volunteers and compiling their data, all our field and feeder participants who stick with us in every kind of weather, to our new young amazingly skilled and motivated birders who set out at 1:30 a.m. and persevere through the evening, and especially to our sponsor SUDBURY VALLEY TRUSTEES and executive director Lisa Vernegaard, who graciously hosts us in SVT’s Wolbach farmhouse for our potluck supper and compilation evening.
Here ends the story of the 60th Concord count but please come back next year, JANUARY 3, 2021, for another adventure in winter birding at its best. A longer summary report with graphs and pictures will appear on our Wordpress site later in January and final results posted early February.
Norman Levey on behalf of the Concord Christmas Bird Count.
POSTSCRIPT: We are hiring! Experienced birders are needed to lead parties in the town of SUDBURY and a sliver of Framingham. Large reservations such as Nobscot and Hop Brook are no longer covered and there is an elbow of the Sudbury River in Framingham that has not been visited in years. The pay is quite low—in fact, zero—but the birding is not to be missed. Feeder counters are welcome. This is a huge town with little coverage and a lot of potential. Lincoln can provide a few field leadership opportunities, too. Please submit résumé to the compiler.
The following is a provisional checklist:
Domestic goose sp. - 1, Hager Pond Canada goose - 2419 Mute swan - 21 Wood duck - 1, CW (count week) Gadwall - 3, Hager Pond Mallard - 884, record 2,413 in 2001 American black duck - 40, record 1973 with 508 MALL X ABDU - 6, I.D.ed by S. Perkins Northern pintail - 1, Hager Pond Green-winged teal - 3 Bufflehead - 6, not every year. Record 22 in 2011 Hooded merganser - 44 Common merganser - 28 Wild turkey - 143, appeared 1997 Rock pigeon - 545, listed on count in 1963, 1,390 in 1980 Mourning dove - 986 VIRGINIA RAIL - 3, Great Meadows Concord Unit SORA - 2, unusual species (US), first since 1980 Ring-billed Gull - 95 Herring gull - 8 Great black-backed gull - 4 Great blue heron - 8 Turkey vulture - 1 Sharp-shinned hawk - 4 Cooper’s hawk - 28 Sharp-shinned/Cooper’s hawk - 1 Bald eagle - 8, Pre-adjusted tally; double counting of one or two possible. Red-shouldered hawk - 1, CW (count week) Concord sector. Never abundant; 7 in 1995. Red-tailed hawk - 142 Eastern screech-owl - 19 Great horned owl - 67, possible high count adjusted; 68 in 2016. Barred owl - 15 Northern saw-whet owl - 10, Record: 45 in 2016. Belted kingfisher - 8 Yellow-bellied sapsucker - 5 Red-bellied woodpecker - 377, HC is 418 in 2016. Downy woodpecker - 795 Hairy woodpecker - 161 Pileated woodpecker - 41 Northern flicker - 50 Merlin - 1 Blue jay - 2025, Good mast year. American crow - 538 Common raven - 20, Multiple counting is a hazard. Black-capped chickadee - 2582 Tufted titmouse - 1455 Golden-crowned kinglet - 139 Ruby-crowned kinglet - 10, HC record high count Red-breasted nuthatch - 4 White-breasted nuthatch - 987 Brown creeper - 49 Winter wren - 41, HC Record high count Marsh wren - 11, HC Record high count Carolina wren - 261, LC the previous decade was 90 (2015). European starling - 2446, In 1971 18,000. Gray catbird - 4 Northern mockingbird - 46, In 1980 the tally was 314. Stable. Eastern bluebird - 585, First appearance 1966 with four. Hermit thrush - 8 American robin - 4177, roost in Stow. Cedar waxwing - 538, had 1365 in 2002. House sparrow - 1917, peaked in 2016 with 3326 House finch - 732 American goldfinch - 1461 Chipping sparrow - 5, a count regular now. Field sparrow - 2, regular on the count. 39 in 1982. Filtered for review by eBird! American tree sparrow - 313 LC, new low count. Fox sparrow - 1 Dark-eyed junco - 2012, almost 10,000 in 2009. White-throated sparrow - 625, in 2009 we had 1884. Savannah sparrow - 1 Song sparrow - 671, possible new HC. Swamp sparrow - 39, record adjusted for participation level holds for 1960–45, our first year. Eastern towhee - 2 Red-winged blackbird - 138 Brown-headed cowbird - 8 Rusty blackbird - 5, reliable in Wayland’s Wash Brook area. Year 2000 showed 64. Decline and fall. Common grackle - 9, Year 1984 showed invasion of 442. Pine warbler - 8, new high count Northern cardinal - 738, three in 1963 and upward from there.
Number of count day individuals: 24,825 Count day species, spuhs, hybrids, and CWs: 78 Actual count day species: 73
Black vulture - 3, CW undocumented Golden eagle - 1, CW undocumented to date