The 2018-2019 CBC included 33 counts from Iowa. Temperatures were above normal in the first week of the count period. There was a steady decline beginning on the 20th which culminated with highs in the teens on the 29th. But temperatures again warmed to 60 degrees by the 5th. Snow was only a factor in the north. The state’s species count was 141. Overall numbers were modest as were individual count totals. Recent years had individual count totals in the 90’s and a couple of counts had hit the century mark. This year Saylorville had the high with just 86 species. Other high counts were Burlington (84), Clinton, Des Moines, and Red Rock (82). Northwest Clayton County (64) led the northern counts. De Soto N.W.R. (80) led the Missouri River counts.
Mason City added a new species to the Iowa CBC with a Western Tanager. It is the first December record for that species. A Spotted Sandpiper was found along the Mississippi River near Camanche on the Princeton count. Although it was a very unusual find, it was not without precedent. One had wintered in Dubuque in December 1976 and was tallied on the CBC that year. A House Wren was discovered on the Red Rock count. As unusual as the sandpiper, it was also not new to the CBC. One had been on the Yellow River Forest count December 1979. And to complete a five wren slam this year, a Sedge Wren was found on the Shenandoah count. That species was last on the CBC in December 1986 in Cedar Rapids. A Dickcissel was at Bremer County. It is only the second time ever on the CBC, following last year’s Dickcissel at Burlington. A Franklin’s Gull was at Des Moines after one being found at Saylorville last year. A Great Egret was on the Mississippi River for the third straight year, at Clinton this time. Very exciting was the report of two Ruffed Grouse by Southeast Clayton County. Historically reported annually by either Decorah or Yellow River Forest, grouse had been missed on the previous six counts. Warblers are becoming regular on our CBCs. This year an Orange-crowned Warbler was at Saylorville and Common Yellowthroats were at both Saylorville and Muscatine. Other notable finds representing somewhat more regular species included a Common Loon at Burlington, a Marsh Wren at De Soto N.W.R., Great-tailed Grackles at Des Moines, and a count week Prairie Falcon at Ames.
Brewer’s Blackbird was the most significant miss as it had been recorded the last 22 years. Spotted Towhee was missed for the first time in 14 seasons. Other notable misses included Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Northern Goshawk, and both crossbills.
Geese and swans were found in excellent numbers. Greater White-fronted Geese and Trumpeter Swans were in record numbers. However ducks were all below their averages. Interestingly however Bufflehead was three times its average. Lone Surf and White-winged scoters were at Red Rock. A Long-tailed Duck was at Clinton. Clinton also reported 82 Sandhill Cranes. Gull numbers were decent, but diversity was lacking. A lone Lesser Black-backed Gull was at Davenport. Pied-billed Grebes were at Cedar Rapids and Shenandoah.
It was a record year for Red-shouldered Hawks and Merlins, and another very good year for Northern Harriers. Barred Owls again established a new high. No Snowy Owls were reported. Northern Shrikes did not come south in large numbers. Black-capped Chickadees had their worst count in ten years and Tufted Titmice had their lowest count in over thirty. Red-breasted Nuthatches approached irruption numbers. Carolina Wrens approached record numbers. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were again on three counts. An amazing six Northern Mockingbirds were at Green Island and another was at Burlington.
Six Eastern Towhees were found, while sparrows were in reduced numbers. Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, and Horned Larks were all in low numbers or difficult to find with the lack of snow. The only two Common Redpolls were at Green Island. American Goldfinch counts have steadily dropped over the last seven years, now to a 30-year low.