It’s that time of year again – this is my 17th year as editor! For the 115th Christmas Bird Count, 19 count circles were reviewed for Wyoming and 26 for Utah. There were no “regional” surprises for this year. For the most part, the weather was mild and most water sites were non-frozen. The mild weather and open water resulted in many counts reporting late migrating species. Most notable late migrants were Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Swainson’s Hawk, Lesser Yellowlegs, Cattle Egret, Western Grebe, Western Kingbird, Say’s Phoebe, Yellow Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, and Brown-headed Cowbird.

In Wyoming, 115 species were reported (compared to 108 species on CBC-114). As the species counts normally vary between 110 and 133, CBC-115 was about average for the state. I found it interesting that 20% of the species (23 of the 115 total) were counted on only one circle. Some of the interesting “single count species” observed included an Eared Grebe (WYEV), two Western Grebes (WYGF), a Peregrine Falcon (WYRT), one Marsh Wren (WYKA), one Lincoln’s Sparrow (WYKA), four Lapland Longspurs (WYAC), one-hundred Snow Buntings (WYJH), and one Western Meadowlark (WYCA).

Wild Turkey numbers in Wyoming peaked on CBC-111 at 1593 individuals. CBC-115 reported 1017 Wild Turkeys on seven counts which is below the 10-year average of 1124 individuals on 7.8 counts. Golden Eagle numbers have been steadily decreasing from a CBC-109 high of 223 individuals to a low of 114 on CBC-114. CBC-115 reported a slight increase with 127 Golden Eagles on 16 circles. The 10-year average was 165.6 individuals on 18.1 circles. Eurasian Collared-Doves were first reported in Wyoming on CBC-99 and now (CBC-115) they were reported on all 19 counts - wow, what an invasion. On CBC-115, 3792 individuals were reported. This compares to a 10-year average of 2298 Eurasian Collared-Doves and a high of 5448 individuals on CBC-113. Northern Shrikes are encountered every year and the numbers seemed fairly stable; however, the variation is more than I expected. Over the last ten years (CBC-106-115), Northern Shrike numbers have varied from 20 to 53 individuals. On CBC-115, 40 Northern Shrikes were recorded on 12 counts. This compares with a 10-year average of 31 on 13 count circles. In recent years, the low was on CBC-103 when only 12 individuals were reported. Belted Kingfisher numbers were decreasing from 53 individuals on CBC-104 to 17 on CBC-110. However, numbers have recovered in recent years. CBC-115 counts reported 31 Belted Kingfishers on 14 counts. This compares to a 10-year average of 27 on 13 counts.

In Utah, 187 species were reported on 26 count circles. In recent years, total species has varied from 180-189, except CBC-113 when 192 species and CBC-114 when 194 species were recorded. I had speculated that Utah was in an upward trend for wintering species; however, this doesn’t seem to be true. During most years, Utah has three counts that top the 100 species mark, CBC-115 met this mark. Congrats to the “over 100” counts. I extend a special welcome for Utah’s newest count, the Boulder count (UTBO). It is always good to extend the CBC coverage for the state.

For additional analysis this year, I looked at the 10-year average for Belted Kingfisher and determined Utah’s CBC-115 was very close to this average with 52 Belted Kingfishers recorded on 13 circles. The 10-year average was 53.7 kingfishers on 11.8 counts. I wondered if the mild winter would result in more Greater Yellowlegs during the CBC count period. For CBC-115 Utah recorded 15 Greater Yellowlegs on three circles. Actually, CBC-115 was a little below the 10-year average of 21.9 individuals on 3.6 circles.  The “irruptive” species counts are always interesting. CBC-115 recorded 570 Evening Grosbeaks on 12 counts. This 570 is very high as the high number since I became the regional editor (17 years) was 346 individuals on 13 circles on CBC-101. The 10-year average (excluding CBC-115) was 64.9 individuals on 3.4 circles. Just for added interest, I analyzed data for Brewer’s Blackbirds, a common migrating species that winters in fair numbers in Utah. I found a 10-year average of 3386 individuals compared to 4214 individuals recorded on CBC-115. So, CBC-115 was a little better than average, but not as high as CBC-113 when 5995 were recorded. I had to look back to CBC-104 to find a year with less than 2000 Brewer’s Blackbirds recorded.

I found it interesting that 40 species out of a total of 187, or about 21%, were counted on only one count circle. This demonstrates the importance of each count. Some of the interesting “single count species” include: Eurasian Wigeon on UTSR; Sharp-tailed Grouse (30 individuals) on UTLO; Osprey (2) on UTHV; Swainson’s Hawk (well documented) on UTOR; Burrowing Owl on UTAI; Northern Saw-whet Owl on UTLO; Brown Thrasher on UTMO; Yellow Warbler on UTSL; Golden-crowned Sparrow on UTES; Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (19) on UTBL; a Black Rosy-Finch on UTBO; and a White-winged Dove on UTSG. 

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