The 58th Ferrisburgh Christmas Bird Count took place on Saturday December 16th. It was a fine day for winter birding with temperatures in the mid-20s. Gusts on the lake could get cold, but overall the wind was not too ferocious. The ground sported a light snow cover but little to no precipitation fell during the day. Thirteen teams spent a cumulative 162 hours in the field and received assistance from an additional three feeder watchers. Five teams spent an additional 16 hours owling. As far as birding, overall the numbers were average. We found 78 species plus one count week which is our 10-year average, and our total of 23,365 birds counted is but 5% above the 10-year average.

Birders discovered seven species that I will categorize as our rarities for the year. We had our first red crossbills since 2004. This was their sixth appearance on the count plus one additional time during count week. We had not one but two red-shouldered hawks – one from Charlotte and one found off Nichols Rd. in New Haven.  There have only been two other red-shouldered hawks in the history of the count, the last in 2008. Ten gadwall were spotted on two territories. Our previous high was seven in 2002. We had two snowy owls, which marks three of the last five years when they have been spotted.  Twenty-three yellow-rumped warblers were found on four different territories. The final two for this list, white-crowned sparrow and ruby-crowned kinglet, have each been found in three of the last four counts, but at very low numbers.

It seems that a number of previously rare birds are becoming more common. We have found savannah sparrows on each of the last four counts, and this year tied the record of seven birds last recorded in 2014. Yellow-bellied sapsucker was first recorded in 2007 and has shown up on five of the last ten counts. We found three this year. On the less rare end, we found 82 white-throated sparrows, shattering the record of 27 set just last year.

Seventeen species were found by all of our field teams: Canada goose, red-tailed hawk, rock pigeon, mourning dove, blue jay, common raven, American crow, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, European starling, northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, American tree sparrow, house finch, American goldfinch, and house sparrow. Of these, black-capped chickadees were found in unusually low numbers; the 579 counted was our lowest total since 1979. On the other hand, we set a record for the most European starlings. This year’s 5,406 birds topped the 2011 record of 5,137. Many thanks to the diligent birders that assiduously counted each and every one of those birds.

Ten species, plus a count period bird, were found by only one group:

  • From Charlotte: red-throated loon, greater scaup, and a count period northern shoveler
  • From New York: ring-necked pheasant and red crossbill
  • From Button Bay: ruby-crowned kinglet and white-crowned sparrow
  • From Kingsland Bay: brown-headed cowbird
  • From Dead Creek: American kestrel
  • From Otter Creek East: merlin
  • From the Otter Creek West owling team: short-eared owl

Thank you to all the participants. We look forward to heading out to the field again for next year’s count on Saturday December 15, 2018. Click here to view the complete species list and count.

Mike Winslow