The 119th CBC in Alabama

Twelve Alabama circles were covered this year. The Gulf Shores count had the highest species total with 148, Eufaula recorded 129, Dauphin Island 122, Wheeler N.W.R. 121, Auburn 102, Guntersville 102, and Montgomery 100. Just short of 100 were Fort Morgan and Waterloo (each with 99). A pair of Inca Doves at Fort Morgan represented the first time the species has been recorded on an Alabama Christmas count

Northern Bobwhites on two circles totaled 24, the second highest total since a decrease that started in the 1990’s brought them down to 29 for count 105. Duck numbers were fairly good, highlighted by an all-time high for Alabama of 186 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks between Gulf Shores and Eufaula N.W.R. (third time recorded - three straight years) and a total of 85 Black Scoters on three circles, the third highest total for the species in Alabama. Three species of hummingbird were recorded: an all-time high 6 Ruby-throats, all in Gulf Shores; a total of 3 Rufous Hummingbirds on two circles (Birmingham and Gulf Shores), and 3 Black-chinneds in Gulf Shores (tying the all-time high). For the most part, shorebird numbers were low. At eight and 20, respectively, Snowy and Piping plovers each tied the lowest total since count 111. Killdeer were recorded on each circle, but the total of 1102 was the lowest since count 73. Thirty Least Sandpipers marked the lowest total since 27 in count 72. On the other hand, 42 Western Sandpipers (all on Dauphin Island) was the second highest count in the last ten years, and Ruddy Turnstones exceeded 100 for the second straight year but only the fourth ever. The total number of Greater Yellowlegs (24) was the lowest since count 76. Seven Lesser Yellowlegs was another low total. The 163 Willets, on the other hand, marked the third highest total since count 103. A Lesser Black-backed Gull on Dauphin Island was the ninth on an Alabama Christmas count.

A Pacific Loon (Wheeler N.W.R.) and two Red-throated Loons (Gulf Shores and Wheeler N.W.R.) were recorded for the twenty-fourth and twenty-sixth times, respectively. The single Eared Grebe on Dauphin Island was Alabama’s first on count day since count 110, ending the longest gap since the first CBC record on count 60. Several species of heron had low totals. Each circle had Great Blue Herons, but the total of 615 was the lowest since count 84. For the fifteenth straight year, there were fewer than ten Little Blue Herons (3). A single Green Heron followed the pattern of the last nine years, none of which totaled more than one. Snowy Egrets fared better; 83 was the second highest total since count 105. Similarly, 38 Black-crowned Night-Herons was the highest total since count 104. For the first time Peregrine Falcons were recorded on six different circles, and the total of 12 was the highest ever for Alabama. Western Kingbirds were found for the twenty-first time, and the five (from Dauphin Island and Fort Morgan) tied the third-highest total ever. Northern Rough-winged Swallows were also found for the twenty-first time, the four (all in Eufaula) tying for the third most ever.

This was a particularly good winter for Red-breasted Nuthatches; 78 was Alabama’s third highest total ever, and this was only the second year that they were recorded on nine circles. Typically Alabama records more than 1000 American Pipits; 254 this year marked the lowest total since count 93. Sparrow numbers were generally low. Only one other time since count 73 had Alabama recorded fewer than this year’s total of 605 Savannah Sparrows and one other time less than this year’s 195 Field Sparrows. The last three years have had the lowest total numbers of Song Sparrows since count 73; this year there were 933. Bucking the trend, 2570 Chipping Sparrows was the highest total in ten years. Other sparrows were at more or less average numbers. For the second straight year and only the second time since count 68, fewer than 1100 Brown-headed Cowbirds were recorded (1075). Since count 59, Alabama has recorded fewer than 50 Boat-tailed Grackles only nine times, all in the past 13 years; this year there were 28. The total of 124 Pine Siskins (on six circles) was Alabama’s fifteenth highest and only the fourth count with more than 100 since count 95.

In addition to the five widespread wintering warblers in Alabama (Orange-crowned, Common Yellowthroat, Palm, Pine, and Yellow-rumped), there were four Black-and-white Warblers from two circles (Eufaula and Fort Morgan), a single Yellow-throated Warbler (Fort Morgan), and a single Black-throated Green Warbler at Gulf Shores (fifth year recorded – each time single birds). A single Summer Tanager (Gulf Shores) provided the ninth count day record. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (Cullman and Dauphin Island) were recorded for only the third time, and two was the second highest total (there were 4 in count 84).

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