Christmas Bird Count

113th CBC New York Regional Summary

By Kevin J. McGowan

New York had 72 counts this year, reporting a total of 253 species for the 113th CBC.  Southern Nassau County led with 142 species.  Tops upstate was Ithaca with a remarkable total for an inland count of 104. A “noreaster” storm on 27 December produced “punishing field conditions” for some counts, but by and large the weather was mild throughout the period.

Barnacle Geese are now nearly annual in the state, with singles seen on Bronx-Westchester and Captree counts. Trumpeter Swans were seen on only two counts this year, down from six last year, but the 68 on the Montezuma count was extraordinary. Always a rare bird on New York counts, only one Blue-winged Teal was seen this year, at Captree, Long Island. A Eurasian Green-winged Teal was seen on the Southern Nassau County count. Harlequin Duck appeared in New York only count week this year, with one in Southern Nassau County, and another at the top of the state in Plattsburgh. It was a good scoter year on Long Island, with large numbers of White-winged and Blacks. The 10,470 Black Scoters on the Quogue-Watermill count was exceeded only by the 11,883 in Montauk; only single digits were observed away from the coast. Few scoters were reported upstate, but Ithaca managed individuals of all three species. Numbers of Ring-necked Ducks appeared up this year. They were found on a normal number of counts, but many reported all time high numbers, led by the 1906 at Letchworth-Silver Lake. A number of counts reported high numbers of Hooded Mergansers, too, although the state total was not remarkable. Several Long Island counts reported fewer than normal (or no) Canvasbacks, and the state total was only about half of recent tallies.

Northern Bobwhite reappeared on the New York CBC list this year, but only with a single bird at Montauk and a count week report at Orient. Wild Turkey numbers appear somewhat stable, but well below their peak of several years ago. Ruffed Grouse numbers were lower than normal.

Pelicans are never common in New York, but three counts reported American White Pelican this year: Brooklyn, Queens, and Northern Nassau County on three successive days, leaving open the possibility of a single bird. Black Vulture numbers appeared a bit lower this year, with 147 on 11 counts. Turkey Vulture numbers were similar to last year, with birds consistently occurring outside of the Hudson Valley and the coastal lowlands. Bald Eagle numbers remain robust, with 416 seen on 56 counts, many away from the traditional wintering areas of the rivers of the southeastern part of the state. High count was 47 at Montezuma.  Rough-legged Hawks were reported as low across the state, with only 79 tallied in total.

A single Black Rail was again reported on Long Island, this time on the Captree, Long Island count. Unknown on New York Christmas counts until a decade ago, Sandhill Crane was found on three counts for a state total of 38. Thirty-six of those were on the Montezuma count when they have become annual, two were seen on the Conesus-Hemlock-Honeoye Lakes count, and a pair showed up count week in Troy.

It was mostly a regular sandpiper year, but the plover numbers were a bit up. Black-bellied Plovers were near normal, with 395 seen on nine Long Island counts, but Killdeer and Semipalmated numbers were above normal, with a single flock of 70 Killdeer among the total count of 100 on the Northern Nassau count.  The single American Golden-Plover on the Captree count was remarkable, but was a lingering bird.

Alcid numbers were a bit higher than usual. Dovekies were seen on five counts, with a maximum of 58 at Montauk. Razorbills were seen on 12 counts, with a high of 580 at Montauk. Montauk also boasted count week Common Murre and Black Guillemot.

Belted Kingfisher numbers seemed up slightly, reported on 61 counts, and a high of 35 in Northern Nassau County. A single bird on the Mohonk Lake-Ashokan Reservoir count was the only report of Red-headed Woodpecker. Other woodpeckers seem to be declining from the highs of recent years, although a number of counts reported high numbers of Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Although Blue Jay was reported on every count in New York, many reported unusually low numbers. Perhaps this was a consequence of a very bad summer of West Nile virus, the worst outbreak in the state in a decade. American Crow numbers did not show an obvious drop, despite a loss of 10-20% of the banded population in Ithaca (pers. obs.). Fish Crow and Common Raven numbers continued at their modest, but recently higher levels.

Tree Swallow was reported on only two counts, as is normal, but the 113 seen on the Brooklyn count was far greater than the usual lingering single birds.  The single Cave Swallow reported on the Kings County CBC was a great addition to the state list, but not altogether surprising. Numbers of November and December Cave Swallows occurring in New York have been rising over the last few years, and scattered individuals had been reported around Long Island leading up to the CBC season.

Boreal Chickadee was not reported on any Adirondack count this year. A count-week Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in Ithaca was an unexpected first for that count, but the bird had been seen lingering around the base of Cayuga Lake the previous month. American Robin numbers seemed down a bit, but the single Wood Thrush on the Orient count is about average for the state. Gray Catbird numbers were well below normal. American Pipit numbers were way up, with 281 seen on 25 counts, and a high of 90 in Southern Orange County. Although only five counts reported Bohemian Waxwing, the 522 on the Canton-Potsdam count contributed to a larger than normal state total of 1181. Cedar Waxwing counts, however, were well below normal, with only 755 reported on 40 counts, fewer than the Bohemian total!

It was a good season for warblers, with scattered individuals of the following: Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Prairie, Blackpoll, Ovenbird, and Wilson’s Warbler. Also, an Audubon’s Yellow-rumped was found on the Smithtown count.

Although American Tree Sparrows were seen on almost all counts, and the state total was robust, many counts commented on having low numbers of the species. Single Nelson’s Sparrows were reported from two Long Island counts, and Saltmarsh and Seaside from one each.  A single Lincoln’s Sparrow was reported on the Pawling (Hidden Valley) count.  Dark-eyed Junco numbers were up slightly, with two of the Oregon form reported.

Northern Cardinal numbers were up a bit, with all 72 counts in the state recording the species for the first time. A single Rose-breasted Grosbeak was found in Elizabethtown, and a single Indigo Bunting was in Queens.  Common Grackle numbers were way down, but Boat-tailed Grackle numbers were higher than normal.

It was an odd “finch year,” with all the likely species being reported, but only on a relatively few counts. Good numbers of Common Redpolls were seen, with most counts finding some, and nine counts reported Hoary Redpolls for a statewide high of 19. A huge fall push of Pine Siskins left only 579 to be tallied by Christmas counts. Crossbills of both species were seen on more than 20 counts, but mostly on Long Island, with small numbers elsewhere.

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