The 2014-2015 CBC included 29 counts from Iowa. Davenport (93) was the high count. Saylorville (89), Keokuk (85), and Burlington (84) were the only other counts to best 80 species. Spirit Lake (53) led the northern counts. The species count this season was 131, which is below the ten-year average of 136. An extended period of unusually cold temps during November may have forced many birds south. This was followed by a mild December which may have allowed some of our winter species to remain north. Open water was plentiful and there was no snow cover. So the walking was easy, but the birds were more widely dispersed.
Despite the low overall species count we did have some really tremendous birds. Number one on probably everyone’s list was a Pine Grosbeak at Ames. It hadn’t been on the count since ’96-’97. Historically rarer, but perhaps underappreciated, was the appearance of a Baltimore Oriole at Burlington. An Orange-crowned Warbler at Iowa City was equally unusual, although one had been found on the Green Island count just three years ago. An Iceland Gull at Princeton was only the fifth in nearly 30 years. Also unusual, Le Conte’s Sparrows were found at both Burlington and Lamoni. A Turkey Vulture and a Chipping Sparrow were at Keokuk. A Townsend’s Solitaire was at Green Island. More predictably, Yellow-headed Blackbirds were found at Sioux City and DeSoto N.W.R.
This was the first count in over 30 years that Long-tailed Ducks were not found. No scoters were found either – not since ’00-’01 had that occurred. Eastern Towhee was also missed for the first time in nearly 30 years. Other notable misses included Snowy Owl, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Savannah Sparrow, Ruffed Grouse, and both crossbills.
Trumpeter Swans were again found in record numbers and over 1,100 Tundra Swans were on the Mississippi at Clinton. Greater White-fronted Geese were relatively plentiful in an easterly distribution. Snow Geese were predominantly in the south and west. Among the dabbling ducks, only Mallards were plentiful. Large numbers of Canvasbacks were at Clinton and Keokuk. Common Mergansers were nearly in record numbers. Most other ducks were below average in number, and Common Goldeneyes had their lowest count in seven seasons.
Gulls were present in good numbers with record tallies of Thayer’s and Lesser Black-backed gulls being found. Two Glaucous Gulls were found at both Saylorville and Davenport. Ten Northern Bobwhites at Red Rock was the high. Five Gray Partridge at Ames were they only ones found this season. Bald Eagle numbers fell somewhat this year. Golden Eagles were at Mason City and Green Island. A Northern Goshawk was at Iowa City.
Eastern Screech-Owls, Great Horned, and Barred owls were found in very good numbers. Pileated Woodpeckers were in record numbers. Northern Shrikes were down, but Mason City had four. A Loggerhead Shrike was at Taylor County. Red-breasted Nuthatches had their lowest count in ten seasons. Carolina Wrens were down a lot over the last two years. Winter Wrens and Golden-crowned Kinglets were found in average numbers. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet was at Davenport. Eastern Bluebirds and Hermit Thrushes were average, but American Robins were half their usual numbers. Brown Thrashers were at Jamaica and Mason City. Cedar Waxwings and Yellow-rumped Warblers were scarce.
Horned Larks were found in a third of their average numbers and Lapland Longspurs didn’t count much better. Snow Buntings had their second lowest count in a decade. Two Spotted Towhees were at De Soto N.W.R. Field Sparrows were at Green Island and Burlington. Dark-eyed Juncos had their worst count in ten seasons. Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles were plentiful. Thirty Brewer’s Blackbirds were at Burlington. Twenty-five Common Redpolls were reported from Union Slough N.W.R. and seven were at Red Rock. Pine Siskins were average. Eurasian Tree Sparrows were north to Green Island and west to North Linn, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City.