Winter struck early and with a vengeance in Indiana this season. The second half of November felt more like mid-January, and apparently pushed many would be lingering species out of the region before the count period began. A number of compilers mentioned the “difficulty in finding land birds, especially sparrows and blackbirds.” However, Hoosier counters once again made some remarkable discoveries, including the state’s first CBC record for Fish Crow, the first Little Gull in 57 years, and Indiana’s second CBC White-eyed Vireo. Other good finds included 10 Blue-winged Teal, two Red-necked Grebes, a Western Grebe, a Black-legged Kittiwake, four Snowy Owls, two Pine Warblers, five Common Yellowthroats, and a Palm Warbler.
Species counted in record numbers included Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Mallard, Black Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Sandhill Crane, Great Black-backed Gull, and Brown Creeper. In contrast, Short-eared Owl, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Pipit, Lapland Longspur, and Snow Bunting had unusually low totals this year.
Most counts had lower than normal species totals; for the first time in several years, there were no counts topping the century mark. Goose Pond and Gibson had the highest species totals with 99 apiece. Other circles producing impressive totals of 90 or more species included Oakland City (92), Sullivan (92), and Lake Monroe (91). Forty-four counts reported data in Indiana this season, which included 854 field observers and 142 feeder watchers. A total of 2034 party hours, 381 hours of feeder observation, and 112 hours of nocturnal birding resulted in the discovery of 148 total species.
Goose numbers have shown a steady increase over recent years, but this season they made a quantum leap. The 11,191 total Greater White-fronted Geese topped the old record by seven-fold, thanks to big counts from Goose Pond (5,900), Gibson (2,800), and Terre Haute (973). The Snow Goose total of 76,942 also tripled the old mark, due to large tallies from Gibson (59,791) and Knox County (13,957). Gibson (5) and Goose Pond (3) provided the season’s eight Ross’s Geese. Mute Swan numbers were surprisingly low; the 376 total was far below last season’s 825. The season’s only Trumpeter Swans came from Turkey Run (6) and Muscatatuck (2). This year’s highest Tundra Swan count (91) also came from Muscatatuck.
Duck highlights included Posey County’s impressive 110 American Black Ducks, a record season for Mallards (39,613), NE La Porte County’s ten Blue-winged Teal, and Goose Pond’s 442 Northern Pintails. It was another good year for Redheads; the season total of 220 was bolstered by Oakland City’s new count high of 80. Surprisingly, the only seaducks this year were all tallied away from Lake Michigan. Pigeon River counters discovered single Surf and Black Scoters, while NE La Porte County had the lone White-winged Scoter – all count firsts. Other duck counts of note included Indianapolis’s 108 Hooded Mergansers and NE La Porte’s 56 Common Mergansers – both new count highs.
Elkhart County had a nice Wild Turkey total (121), while Goose Pond had a count record 48 Northern Bobwhites. All the Red-throated Loons came from Lake Michigan this season; the Dunes count contributed 32, and Dunes West added two more. More than half of this year’s Common Loons (63) were provided by Lake Monroe (35). It was a good season for the rarer grebes with both Red-necked (2) and Western Grebe (1) tallied. The Dunes count had a single Red-necked Grebe and the lone Western. The other Red-necked was a count first for Sullivan County. Yet another count first was the season’s only Black-crowned Night-Heron for Oakland City.
Black Vultures continued their steady increase, establishing a new record total (416). Surprisingly, Black Vultures far outnumbered the normally more common Turkey Vultures (283) thanks to new count highs by Mary Gray (89) and Lake Monroe (59). Overall, raptor numbers were fairly typical. However, it was another record season for Bald Eagle (244) and Red-shouldered Hawk (257). Big Oaks had a pair of Golden Eagles, while singles were provided by Goose Pond, Johnson County, Spring Mill, and Gibson. Falcon numbers were above average, with 13 Merlins and a record 10 Peregrine Falcons tallied.
Pokagon had the only Virginia Rail of the season. Goose Pond contributed 24 Whooping Cranes, with Gibson adding four more. Additionally, Goose Pond provided 5,610 and Whitewater 2,600 of the record 10,771 Sandhill Cranes. Oakland City contributed the shorebird highlights, including a new count high 85 Killdeer and the season’s only three American Woodcocks. Sullivan County had two rare gulls this season. In addition to a long-staying Little Gull that lingered into the count period (and well beyond), they also had a count week Black-legged Kittiwake (9th CBC record for IN). Other gulls of note came from Lake Michigan. The Dunes count had three Thayer’s, a Glaucous, and eight of the record 14 Great Black-backed Gulls. Dunes West also had a Glaucous Gull and the other six Great Black-backeds.
Terre Haute had a count record 34 Eurasian Collared-Doves. Goose Pond discovered the lone Barn Owl of the season. Four circles had single Snowy Owls, including IN Dunes, Southern Lake County, Topeka, and Elkhart (count week), matching last season’s total. Long-eared Owls have become disturbingly scarce; only Topeka’s count week Long-eared was recorded this year. The Short-eared Owl total (31) was the lowest in nine seasons. It was a typical year for Northern Saw-whet Owls with nine birds tallied.
It was another good year for woodpeckers with record counts of Red-bellied (2,327) and Pileated woodpeckers (518). The season’s seven Eastern Phoebes came from Lake Monroe (2), Spring Mill (2), Gene Stratton-Porter (1), Muscatatuck (1), and Patoka Lake (1). Loggerhead Shrikes have become so rare that even finding three birds is a good year; singles were found by Richmond, Gibson, and Oakland City (count week). Northern Shrikes were scarce; only five birds were recorded, including an impressive three by Sullivan County and singles by Goose Pond and Pokagon.
Eagle Creek provided the most remarkable record of the season, Indiana’s first CBC Fish Crow. Several birds lingered into the late fall. On count day at least one bird was still present and its call was recorded.
Indiana had its first CBC White-eyed Vireo just two years ago, and now thanks to the Topeka count, it has happened again. The Red-breasted Nuthatch total (24) was the lowest in 11 years. Hamilton County‘s 46 Brown Creepers was a new count high and a big contributor to this season’s record total (405). The season’s highest Winter Wren tally was McCormick’s Creek’s eight, while Goose Pond provided the lone Marsh Wren. This year’s four Gray Catbirds came from Knox County (2), South Bend (1), and Cass County (count week). Goose Pond provided three of the season’s 11 Brown Thrashers. The American Pipit count of just three birds was the lowest in 14 years.
Warbler highlights included single Pine Warblers from Lake Monroe and Topeka (CW), and five Common Yellowthroats from Goose Pond (2), the Dunes (2), and Lake Monroe (1). Ohio River had the lone Palm Warbler of the season. Patoka Lake had a new count high 71 Eastern Towhees. Six circles contributed to the season’s eight Chipping Sparrows. The American Tree Sparrow total (4765) was the lowest in eight years. Savannah Sparrows were also scarce, with their lowest total (30) in nine years. Le Conte’s Sparrow is always a good CBC find in Indiana. This season, Big Oaks and Gibson each had single Le Conte’s. The Fox, Song, and Swamp sparrow counts were all below average. Ohio River produced a new count high, 351 White-crowned Sparrows.
Last year’s record 6,420 Lapland Longspurs was followed up by this season’s 805 – the lowest total in ten years. Snow Buntings were also elusive; a mere 18 birds was the lowest count in 20 years, and only the Dunes count was able to find more than one (16). Like sparrows, blackbird numbers were fairly low. The season’s highest Rusty Blackbird counts came from Gibson (222), Oakland City (78), and Big Oaks (70). For the first time in 15 years, Brewer’s Blackbird was not recorded. Though still modest, Purple Finch (129) and Pine Siskin (341) totals were better than last year’s. Whitewater had a nice count of 40 Purple Finches, while Willow Slough had by far the largest Pine Siskin tally (157). The only Common Redpolls reported this year were the 12 from South Bend.
Many thanks go out to all the participants and our dedicated compilers for another successful CBC season in Indiana.