Thirty-seven Christmas Bird Counts were conducted this year in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A total of 137 species was recorded, down from last year’s 143. There were two additional count week birds reported: one Fish Crow, and one Orange-crowned Warbler; both birds were reported by seasoned observers. Total individuals counted were 382,137, which includes only birds identified to species. One count circle beat the century mark, which is extraordinary for Kentucky – East Allen County tallied 103 species this year – a great effort by the team there! Three other count circles tallied 90 or more species: Louisville (95), plus Ballard County and Russell-Adair County (91 each). Five count circles reported between 81 and 87 species, seven observed between 74 and 79 species, and the remaining 21 counted between 42 and 69 species.
Weather was rather mild in Kentucky. Many compilers commented on the low waterfowl numbers and species variety. The low temperatures ranged from 23°F to 49°F. The high temperatures ranged from 60°F to 38°F. All-day clear or cloudy weather was about evenly split on the counts. Of the eight counts that reported rain, seven reported all-day rain; mostly light rain. No snow was reported. Rivers and creeks were open. Lakes and ponds were open, with two counts reporting some frozen still water on smaller ponds. As always, the distribution of count days across the count period was not uniform. With the traditional holidays and related travel falling adjacent to the weekends this year, counts were distributed across fewer days: of the 23 days of the count period, only 13 were used to run bird counts. The seven weekend days hosted 23 of the 37 CBCs.
Highlights of this CBC season include the following. Most of these are on eBird checklists, most documented by photographs, and all have considerable identification notes on the rarities: Ross’s Goose (23 on 3 counts), Cackling Goose (18 on 4 counts), Black Scoter (1 at Louisville), Long-tailed Duck (1 at Land Between the Lakes), Common Merganser (10 on 4 counts), Red-throated Loon (1 at Barren River Lake), Eared Grebe (3 on 2 counts), Great Egret (6 on 5 counts), Golden Eagle (5 on 3 counts), Barn Owl (10 on 3 counts), Short-eared Owl (11 on 5 counts), Merlin (10 on 7 counts), Peregrine Falcon (5 on 2 counts), Say’s Phoebe (1 at East Allen), White-eyed Vireo (1 at Ballard), Brown-headed Nuthatch (2 at London), House Wren (10 on 6 counts), Marsh Wren (3 on 2 counts), Gray Catbird (4 on 3 counts), Black-and-white Warbler (1 at Louisville), Common Yellowthroat (2 on 2 counts), Palm Warbler (16 on 7 counts), LeConte’s Sparrow (6 on 2 counts), Lincoln’s Sparrow (1 at East Allen), and Brewer’s Blackbird (4 on 2 counts).
The ten most numerous species were Common Grackle (115,559); European Starling (70,852); Red-winged Blackbird (27,397); Snow Goose (22,003); Brown-headed Cowbird (10,049); Mourning Dove (9168); Mallard (8347); Ring-billed Gull (7698); Canada Goose (7340); and American Crow (6980). There were 18 common species that were reported on all 37 counts; 11 species were observed on only one CBC. Three count circles counted over 25,000 birds: Paradise (107,871); Elkton (34,086); and Ballard (36,945).
The 462 participants (including some multi-CBC people) logged a total of 1215.5 party hours and 7250.25 miles. Birders spent 28 hours owling while travelling 133.75 miles. Seventeen feeder watchers logged 30.25 hours observing birds. We are working to increase CBC participation on some counts, though in some areas far from population centers, it’s difficult to recruit observers.
Historically, many CBCs held in Kentucky were published in the Kentucky Ornithological Society journal The Kentucky Warbler, but were not included in the NAS CBC database. I am still engaged with NAS in the effort to include all such counts that meet qualifying criteria. When that project is complete, better trending can be derived from that foundation of data, as well as making available the data to researchers and the public. Upon completion of that project, this summary will be more substantive, and include trending data such as those included in my peers’ regional summaries.
I offer sincere thanks to the 462 observers who participated in this year’s counts. Once again, most of these observations have also been reported in eBird. My special gratitude goes to the 37 hard-working compilers who organized and executed their counts, submitted count results online, and endured my many requests and questions. To those who completed Rare Bird Reports or otherwise documented the unusual birds, thank you very much.