The 117th CBC in Ohio

We’re pleased to share with you the Ohio results from the 117th annual National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. At publication time a year ago, we had the complete results from 67 Ohio counts. This year, we have results from 73 counts. Compilers worry about a lot of things pertaining to their counts, such as finding reliable section leaders and knowledgeable counters, obtaining permission for private property access, timely tally reporting, rarity documentation, and the weather. With patience and diligence, most of the compiler’s worries can be assuaged—but not the weather. Compilers can do nothing about the weather! This year, if you were on the Cincinnati count on 26 Dec, you enjoyed temperatures that reached 72 degrees Fahrenheit, for it was your luck to be birding during a Christmas warm-up in which “hundreds of daily record highs were set or tied in the Midwest.” (National Climate Report 2016) If you were running an early count on 14, 15, or 16 Dec, you endured temperatures that probably never broke out of the teens. In fact, equally high numbers of record cold temperatures were set throughout the Midwest during early December. (NCR 2016) On 14 Dec, the Black Swamp Count recorded a low of minus 2 and a high of 19, Fayette County 7 and 16, and Preble County 7 and 22. On 15 Dec, Caesar Creek-Spring Valley recorded temperatures between 3 and 13; on 16 Dec, Ashland temperatures were between 9 and 16, Portsmouth’s between 13 and 23, and Wilmot’s between 6 and 15. Lucky counts that waited until the first Saturday of the count period seemed to have been rewarded, since a warm front came through the region, producing notably warmer temperatures the first weekend of the 117th CBC. Temperature ranges for counts held on 17 and 18 Dec generally spanned from the 30s to the low 60s. Weather is unpredictable, of course; while the first half of December was colder than normal, the second half was warmer than normal. The good news for climate change deniers is that if we ignore the pendulum swing, for the month of December the temperatures in Ohio and the Midwest were not too far from normal. (NCR 2016; NWS Wilmington) There was some snow in the region, mostly during the colder first half of December, but snow doesn’t seem to have caused many problems for this year’s counts.

Now for some numbers: Ohio counters tallied 161 species during the 117th CBC. Caesar Creek-Spring Valley led the state with 97 species, and Toledo was one behind at 96. Both the Gypsum and Lake Erie Islands counts reported 91 for their day. Three counts were in the high 80s: Cincinnati (89), Columbus (86), and Cuyahoga Falls (88).  Seven other counts reached or broke the 80 level. Numbers can be interpreted in various ways, and the seasonal reports in this issue will cover the regional trends that are reflected in the CBC results. The following species were reported on all 73 counts: Canada Goose, Mallard, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied and Downy woodpeckers, Blue Jay, American Crow, European Starling, House Sparrow, House Finch, Northern Cardinal, and Dark-eyed Junco. Chickadees, either Black-capped or Carolina, were also found in every circle. Twelve counts recorded “chickadee species” in addition to either or both Black-capped and Carolina; one count, Killdeer Plains, reported only “chickadee species”. Species represented on single counts, usually as single individuals, are often interesting, be they full species or clearly identifiable sub-species. These were Brant (Cuyahoga Falls, two individuals), Harlequin Duck (Lakewood), Spotted Sandpiper (Ashtabula), Least Sandpiper (Cincinnati), American Woodcock (Quail Hollow-Hartville), Thayer’s Gull (Toledo, two individuals), Iceland Gull (Toledo, two), Red-throated Loon (Lake Erie Islands), American White Pelican (Caesar Creek-Spring Valley, 36), Green Heron (Cuyahoga Falls), Golden Eagle (Chandlersville), Snowy Owl (Ashtabula), Northern Shrike (Ottawa N.W.R.), Common Raven (Cadiz, two), Cave Swallow (Fremont), Marsh Wren (Wilmot), White-winged Crossbill (Hocking Hills), Evening Grosbeak (Lancaster), Ovenbird (Mansfield, worth mentioning as a count week report), Louisiana Waterthrush (Burton), Palm Warbler (Chandlersville), Lincoln’s Sparrow (Tiffin), “Oregon” Junco (Toledo), Summer Tanager (Wilmot), Western Tanager (Wilmot), Yellow-headed Blackbird (Toledo), and Brewer’s Blackbird (Toledo).

The birds don’t count themselves, and without counters in the field and at feeders, CBCs aren’t possible. For the 117th CBC Cuyahoga Falls again led Ohio CBCs with 146 participants. Wilmot had 88, Cincinnati 82, and both Ragersville and O’Shaughnessey Reservoir counts had 76 birders. Southern Cuyahoga had 67, while Columbus had 66 for their day in the field.

As with finding the birds on a CBC, the number of birders who participate each year is influenced by weather, timing, recruiting efforts by compilers and other counters, and luck. This year, the National Audubon Society online signup feature did not work, which might have cost us some participants, particularly first-time participants.

We would like to thank the National Audubon Society for making their compilation of CBC data available to us. Visit the Christmas Bird Count web site at . All the data, including historical data, are available online at . Observers can also sign up online to participate in most counts, which can help compilers plan their count circle coverage. If you decide to try out a new count or two in the 118th season, consider signing up online next fall. Thanks to everyone who helped with the 117th CBC season!

Sources cited

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Centers for Environmental Information. “National Climate Report, December 2016.” (accessed 1 May 2017).

National Weather Service, Wilmington, Ohio. “December 2016 Regional Climate Summary.” (accessed 1 May 2017).

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