Weather is always a factor for the Christmas Bird Count, but this year was the second record mildest year in a row within the last 12 years. Only 10% of the counts were moderately impacted by wind or rain and 10% were severely impacted by rain or flooding. A new 13% impact to the counts was the partial government shutdown, which cost counts their observers, transportation and especially access. Overall 33% of the counts were impacted in some form, which was 8% below the 12-year average.
In Arkansas 30 counts were submitted with 13 counts having more than 90 species. Long expected, Lake Dardanelle had the high species count of 118. Other counts over 90 species were: Pine Bluff (115), Arkadelphia (109), Holla Bend N.W.R. (107), Hot Springs N.P. (103), Lonoke (102), Conway (99), Little Rock (97), Big Lake N.W.R. (95), White River N.W.R. (94), Fayetteville (92), Wappanocca N.W.R. (91), and Fort Smith/Moffett (90). The high species count of 118 was average. Sylamore Ranger District had the most new or unusual species (7) and Mississippi River S.P. had the most species high counts (20). An amazing five counts set new species highs; Big Lake N.W.R. (95), Crooked Creek Valley (83), Lake Ouachita (54), Mississippi River S.P. (88), and Sylamore Ranger District (65). Fayetteville had the most hours (78.5) and the most observers (47). The total of 153 species statewide was 13 species below average and the worst in 15 years.
Welcome to two new counts, Bella Vista/Bentonville/Centerton and Pond Creek N.W.R.!
The numbers for the following bird highlights are normalized by dividing with the party hours. The best number of species occurred 12/25-12/30. The best number of individuals occurred 12/31-1/5. Statewide-total number of individuals (1,490,219) was 50 percent above the ten-year average. The best number of species occurred in the Magazine Mountain area, followed by the Grand Prairie and the South Central/West Gulf Coastal Plain eco-regions. The best number of individuals occurred in the Grand Prairie eco-region, followed by the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain and the Arkansas River Valley eco-regions. Lake Dardanelle had the most individuals (540,257).
In the broad groups, geese were 396% above average (12th year in-a-row above 200% and a 66-year high); and semi-hardy waterbirds were 137% (5th year in-a-row above 125%); shorebirds were 39% below average and the worst in 17 years; grassland species were -60% (a 66-year low, largely because of low Eastern Meadowlark numbers); blackbirds were -93% (for the 7th year in-a-row below -70%); western species were -62% and the worst in 11 years; frugivores -97% (for the 5th year in-a-row below -90%); and upland game-birds -70% (a general decline since the 1980’s with cyclic highs and lows within the decline).
Setting new 66-year highs were Snow Goose (4th record high in ten years); Common Loon (two record years in-a-row); Red-shouldered Hawk (fourth record high in 12 years); Bonaparte’s Gull (two strong years, followed by this record year); Barred Owl (180% above average); Hairy Woodpecker; Blue-headed Vireo (two record years in-a-row, 532%); Carolina Wren (68%); Orange-crowned Warbler (250%); and Common Yellowthroat (349%).
Green-winged Teal was 207 % above average and had their best flight in 12 years; Greater Scaup was 425% and had their best flight in 15 years; American White Pelican was 435% and has had strong flights for the last four years; Black Vulture was 205% and has had five strong years in-a-row; Rock Pigeon was 137% and the last three years were the strongest in 17 years; Belted Kingfisher was 53% and had their strongest flight in 13 years; Red-bellied Woodpecker was 50% and has had four record highs in-a-row, followed by this strong year; Red-breasted Nuthatch was 427% and this year’s irruptive flight tied a 64-year record; Brown Creeper was 94% and had the best flight in ten years; Marsh Wren was 132% and this year’s flight tied a 64-year record; American Pipit was -30%, but had the best flight in 20 years; Chipping Sparrow was 183% and has had four strong years in the last five; Northern Cardinal was -2%, but had the best flight in 11 years; Rusty Blackbird was -94%, but the last two years were strong flights; Purple Finch was -50%, but had the strongest flight in 11 years; and House Finch was 109% and had the best flight in 12 years.
Meanwhile, 66-year lows were set by Loggerhead Shrike (for the fifth year in-a-row, even in the Mississippi River delta.); Eastern Meadowlark; and House Sparrow (third record low year in last eight years).
Hooded Merganser was 64% below average and had the worst flight in 28 years; Pied-billed Grebe was 34% above average, but had the worst flight in 12 years; Killdeer was -22% and had the worst flight in 13 years; Wilson’s Snipe was -79% and had the worst flight in 16 years; and Yellow-rumped Warbler was -58% and had the worst flight in 31 years.
Patterns within species of interest included: Osprey has occurred approximately every third year for 60 years and now annually for the last six years; and Eurasian Collared-Doves had a complex pattern with increasing numbers from the 98th, peaking in the 108th, dropped through the 111th, then reached record numbers in the 112th through 115th, then dropped in numbers through the 119th to levels more like the 105th.
The common/uncommon occurring species that were missed included: American Black Duck (missed in nine of 66 years, with four misses in the last 11 years); Eared Grebe (first miss in 27 years); Bewick’s Wren (low numbers for many years, but this is first miss in 66 years); and Great-tailed Grackles (first miss in eight years).
Species found only on one count included: Least Sandpiper (Bella Vista/Bentonville/Centerton); White-winged Dove (Fort Smith/Moffett); Pacific Loon (Hot Springs N.P.); Harlan’s subspecies Red-tailed Hawk (Holla Bend N.W.R.); Trumpeter Swan; Lesser Black-backed Gull and Western Grebe (Lake Dardanelle); Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Lake Georgia Pacific-Felsenthal N.W.R.); Red-breasted Merganser, Sandhill Crane, and Nashville Warbler (Little Rock); Long-billed Dowitcher (Lonoke); Black-crowned Night-Heron (Mississippi River S.P.); and Lark Sparrow (Pond Creek N.W.R.).
Species found only on two counts included: Spotted Sandpiper, American Woodcock, and Inca Dove (Arkadelphia); Red Crossbill (Fayetteville); Lesser Yellowlegs (Lonoke); Golden Eagle (North Fork of Illinois Bayou); Lesser Yellowlegs, count week Spotted Sandpiper, and Inca Dove (Pine Bluff); Golden Eagle (Sylamore Ranger District); American Tree Sparrow (Crooked Creek Valley); American Woodcock and American Tree Sparrow (Mississippi River S.P.); and Red Crossbill (North Fork of the Illinois Bayou).
The bird of-the-year was a count week Nashville Warbler, at Little Rock, for only the third Arkansas CBC appearance in 66 years.
This year’s sponsors were: The Audubon Society of Central Arkansas; Buffalo River Partners Inc; City of Hot Springs; The Disorganized Bird Club; Felsenthal N.W.R.; Friends of Holla Bend N.W.R.; Garland County Audubon; Holla Bend N.W.R.; Hot Springs N.P.; Hot Springs Village Audubon; Lake Catherine S.P.; Lake Ouachita S.P.; Mississippi River S.P.; Mount Magazine S.P.; North Central Arkansas Audubon Society; NorthWest Arkansas Audubon Society; Ouachita-Caddo Bird Club; Ozark-St. Francis N.Fs.; Tennessee Ornithological Society; Texarkana Audubon Society; Three Rivers Audubon Society; and Village Creek S.P.
It can never be said frequently enough: All the compilers, co-compilers and volunteers deserve a big “THANK YOU” for your hard work!