By Carl Greiner
Last year we had one of the warmest winters in recorded history. Thankfully, the 2012 – 2013 Minnesota CBC was cooler. The lowest temperature was a -20 F (last year was +5 F). The highest temperature was 44 F in Jackson County. The average temperatures were 14.9 F for the low and 25.5 F for the high. Snow cover was 3.6 – 6.4 inches on average while last year the average was less than an inch (0.91). The deepest snow, 18 inches, was in St. Paul NE Suburban. There was some open water to be found south of the Twin Cities and streams were partially open as far north as the Iron Range. We had a huge increase in participation this year mainly due to number of counts that were restored following the changes in the fee structure of the CBC. This year, 68 counts submitted results compared to 48 counts last year. Of course, the huge increase in counts performed translated into increases in party-hours (2406 to 3064), however, most likely due to the warm temperatures last year the total count actually decreased (401,796 to 314,697) as did the number of species (142 to 141). No new species were recorded.
Blue-winged Teal, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Spruce Grouse, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Osprey, Boreal Owl, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Townsend’s Solitaire, Spotted Towhee, Eastern Towhee, and Field Sparrow were on last year’s count but not observed this season. Greater Scaup, Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Red-necked Grebe, Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Killdeer, Wilson’s Snipe, Northern Hawk-Owl, Western Meadowlark, and Savannah Sparrow were on this years count and not in 2011 - 2012.
Not surprisingly as the presence of open water was reduced across the state compared to last year, waterfowl numbers were tremendously decreased. Last year there were 201,510 Canada Geese while this year there was only 74,960. This alone explains the total count decrease despite the addition of 20 new circles. In addition, there were 15,532 fewer Mallards counted this year than last. Numbers of Common Goldeneye and the mergansers were also down (except for Hooded Merganser). However, most of the waterfowl typically found in lesser numbers were increased this year probably benefitting from the greater number of count circles. There were increases in Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Greater Scaup, and Lesser Scaup. Only American Black Duck and Green-winged Teal decreased. Once again, there were four species of goose (Canada, Cackling, Greater White-fronted, and Snow) and both Tundra and Trumpeter Swans increased by roughly 1000 birds each. Also of note were a Great Egret in Rochester and two Black-crowned Night-Herons in Winona.
There were tremendous increases in upland game birds. Pheasants increased from 237 to 1823, Gray Partridge from 1 to 16, Sharp-tailed Grouse 24 to 130, Greater Prairie-Chicken 23 to 189, and Wild Turkey 2899 to 4656. The only member of this group showing a decrease was Spruce Grouse that was not counted this year while four were noted last year. Raptors once again were pretty steady with the exception of Bald Eagles (increased from 967 to 1326), Red-tailed Hawks (increased from 606 to 770) and American Kestrels (increased from 49 to 75).
The gulls were pretty much the same as last year except Ring-billed increased from 300 to 583 and Herring decreased from 2222 to 1557. There were also Glaucous, Thayers, Iceland, and Great Black-backed gulls tallied. Eurasian Collared-Doves continue their slow expansion into Minnesota increasing from 113 last year to 264 this year. While last year they first showed up as far north as Grand Rapids, Fergus Falls, and Morris this year they arrived in Roseau completing their coverage of the state. Rock Pigeons were greatly increased from last year going from 12,375 to 14,401. Mourning Doves increased from 1395 to 1745.
All the owls were up in number this year with the exception of Snowy Owls. There were no Short-eared Owls or Boreal Owls counted this year. The absence of Boreal Owls was notable because later in the winter an apparent irruption occurred. All woodpecker numbers were up this year with the exception of the Red-headed Woodpecker that plunged from 58 birds last year to six this year.
Northern Shrikes were up slightly, improving on the recent trend (2007 – 206, 2008 – 108, 2009 – 73, 2010 – 151, 2011– 154, this year - 226). However, this trend may be biased by the 20 new count circles this year. All the corvids increased over last year except for the American Crow which plummeted from 21,820 to 16,141. Black-billed Magpies continue to expand going from 50 last year to 103 this year. They were counted in Baudette, Beltrami Island, Bemidji, Cook, Crookston, Fergus Falls, Grand Rapids, Itasca State Park, Pillager, Roseau, Sax-Zim, Two Harbors, and Virginia.
Horned Larks were up from 418 to 1321. While Black-capped Chickadees were significantly increased, but Boreal Chickadees were down. Tufted Titmouse numbers increased from 32 to 53. Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Brown Creeper were up over last year. Carolina Wren was tallied at Albert Lea, Austin (6), Cedar Creek Bog (count week), Rochester (count week), St. Paul North, St. Paul Northeast Suburban, Walker, and Winona. Last year there was only one counted. The wren at Walker is the farthest north yet for this species on the CBC. No Ruby-crowned Kinglets were counted and Golden-crowned Kinglets numbers decreased from 34 to 15 this year. Thrushes (Eastern Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit, American Robin, and Varied, plus mimids Gray Catbird and Brown Thrasher) were less than last year.
European Starlings numbers increased slightly. The waxwing numbers are interesting. Two years ago, Bohemian Waxwings made it as far south as Red Wing and 3619 were counted statewide. Only 907 Cedar Waxwings were counted. Last year, the roles were reversed with 4142 Cedar Waxwings and only 880 Bohemian. In the 112th CBC Bohemians were only observed in the far north (Roseau, Baudette, Grand Marais, and Duluth). This year there were 1532 Bohemian and 1032 Cedar tallied; all the Bohemians were in the north with Pine County being the most southerly count circle.
A single Yellow-rumped Warbler was counted in St. Paul North. American Tree Sparrows (1785 to 6728) and Dark-eyed Juncos (7172 to 10,306) were greatly up in number probably due to the increase in count circles. Other sparrows counted were Chipping, Savannah, Fox, Song, Swamp, White-throated, Harris’s, and White-crowned. Snow Buntings rebounded after last year’s decrease (1515 to 7788) as did Lapland Longspurs (889 to 3992) and Northern Cardinals (1894 to 3554). A single Rose-breasted Grosbeak was observed again this year, this time in Henderson. Red-winged Blackbirds and Rusty Blackbirds both decreased. There were eight Brewer’s Blackbirds counted (4 each in Faribault and Alexandria). Cottonwood had a Western Meadowlark. Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cowbird numbers were both up.
Red Crossbills greatly increased from 13 in 2010, 12 in 2011, to 219 this year. Last year there were 1010 White-winged Crossbills counted, this year there were 952. This was a fantastic year for redpolls. The last four years for Common Redpoll were 873 in 2009, 1409 in 2010, 3345 in 2011, and 22,094 this year! There were also 48 Hoary Redpolls counted this year compared to just three last year. Pine Siskin increased from 445 last year to 1739 this year. American Goldfinch numbers increased slightly and Evening Grosbeak had a huge increase from 245 last year to 406 this year. House Sparrows increased from 10,049 to 15,950.