The 57th Ferrisburgh Christmas Bird Count took place on Saturday December 17th. Our field teams fought through a snowy morning, but the afternoon was clear. Temperatures sat in the high teens and twenties through the day. The lake was mostly open, but inland waters and Otter Creek were mostly frozen. Thirty-seven people in 12 field teams spent 132 hours searching for birds. Their efforts were supplemented by three feeder watchers.  All together the teams came up with 16,927 birds of 74 species with three additional count week species. Over the last ten years we have averaged 78 species and just over 22,000 birds.

Numbers for some of our more common species were down, probably because of the morning snows. We had the fewest downy woodpeckers (60) since 2002, the fewest house finches (75) since 1983 just before their population exploded, the fewest white-breasted nuthatches (80) since 1972, and the fewest red-breasted nuthatches (1) since 1967.

However, the weather didn’t hide everything. We had record high counts for four species: red-bellied woodpeckers (47, topping the 2014 record), white-throated sparrows (27, topping the 2013 record), peregrine falcons (5), and dark-eyed juncos (978, eclipsing the 2013 record of 557). Additionally, we had our second highest total of red-winged blackbirds (30) topped only by an astounding 210 found in 1967. We also had a rusty blackbird on the count for just the third time in the count’s history.

We found 16 species of waterfowl (ducks, geese, grebes, and loons) plus an additional count week American widgeon. Highlights included a lone wood duck flying over Otter Creek, a single ring-necked duck, and four black scoters.  We had the fewest bufflehead (26) since 1989, but the most common mergansers (511) since 2003 and the most red-breasted mergansers (19) since 1998.

Sixteen species were found on all territories: red-tailed hawk, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, blue jay, American crow, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, American robin, European starling, northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, American tree sparrow, American goldfinch, and house sparrow.

Fourteen species were found on only one territory:

  • From Button Bay – belted kingfisher, red-breasted nuthatch, golden-crowned kinglet, and white-crowned sparrow
  • From Dead Creek – white-winged scoter, black scoter, lesser scaup, and rusty blackbird
  • From Otter Creek East – northern mockingbird, cedar waxwing
  • From Otter Creek West – wood duck, pine siskin
  • From Charlotte – ring-necked duck
  • From New York – ring-necked pheasant

Thank you to all the participants. We look forward to heading out to the field again next December.


– Mike Winslow