The 119th CBC in Ohio

Welcome to a review of Ohio’s participation in the 119th National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Ohio observers participated in 68 different counts this year. Regrettably, we lack results from the Bucyrus circle. I’ll also admit here to having miscounted the number of circles reported in last year’s Christmas Bird Count summary article, for which I apologize. We have historical data for a total of 74 Ohio Christmas Bird Counts. Sixty-nine counts reported results last year, and 68 in this, the 119th count.

Chances are good that if you remember the weather during any of the previous counts you participated in, it’s because it was bad – either really wet or very cold. Nationally, December 2018 was warm and wet, with an average temperature of 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit (almost three degrees above the 20th century average); while mean precipitation of 3.23 inches (0.88 inches above average), made December 2018 the seventh wettest in the past 124 years (National Climate Report, December 2018). Unlike last year, there was little or no snow on any of Ohio’s CBCs. There was a “snowfall deficit” of as much as two feet for the month in the “downwind” Great Lakes region due to the lack of lake-effect snowfall (NCR December 2018). Cleveland had between one and three inches of snow on the ground during their count on 22 Dec and Ashtabula had just under an inch on 29 Dec. Otherwise, there was no snow to be found in Ohio counts. The first Saturday of the count season, 15 Dec, saw heavy rain, particularly in southern Ohio. Outside of that date, most counts reported little precipitation. It seems that count days were mostly comfortable.

During the 119th CBC season, 2220 Ohio birders collectively tallied 160 species. Relatively mild weather throughout the region possibly contributed to slightly lower-than-expected tallies. Four counts hit the 90s last year. This year, only state leader Toledo broke the 90 barrier, tallying 95 species. Caesar Creek-Spring Valley was close with 89. Other counts in the 80s include The Brown Family Environmental Center (86), Cincinnati (81), Cuyahoga Falls (82), Millersburg (82), Wilmot (83), and Wooster (82). Last year, 16 counts were in the 70s. This year, that number fell to 11. Of the counts that ended up in the 70s, Mansfield and Ragersville tied at 78 species.

Some species highlights include single reports of Ross’s Goose (Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area), Greater White-fronted Goose (Mansfield), Eurasian Collared-Dove (Gypsum), Rufous Hummingbird (Rudolph), Pacific Loon (Ashtabula), an intriguing swallow of unknown species (Firelands), House Wren (Columbus), American Pipit (Toledo), Lincoln’s Sparrow (Columbus), and “Oregon” Junco (a returning bird? Grand Rapids-Waterville).

Here’s another indicator of the mild December we had. Ohio birders reported nine species of warblers during the count period, including a count week Palm Warbler (Lake Erie Islands). Eight count-day delights included Northern Waterthrush (Toledo), Black-and-white Warbler (Firelands), Orange-crowned Warbler (Cuyahoga Falls), two Nashville Warblers (Gypsum and Wilmot), five Common Yellowthroats (Athens, Delaware Reservoir, Grand Rapids-Waterville, Millersburg, and Wooster), Blackpoll Warbler (Cuyahoga Falls), two Pine Warblers (Millersburg and Wooster), and 391 Yellow-rumped Warblers.  An Indigo Bunting turned up in Millersburg and the Western Hamilton County count reported a Dickcissel.

We mentioned above the 2220 participants who helped out with Ohio’s counts this year. More than a few of the group participated in multiple counts. That’s still a decent number of birders, but we know there are many more out there. Count participation numbers ranged from four (Goll Woods) to 139 (Cuyahoga Falls). The Brown Family Environmental Center had 90, and Wilmot 83. Five circle’s participant counts were in the 70s: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Hocking Hills, and Lakewood.

The average number of participants was roughly 32 birders per count, but that obscures a number of counts that were run with at least half that number of participants. For example, 27 counts had fewer than 20 birders in the field. Of those 27, 19 had fewer than 15 birders. In an effort to make sense out of the numbers produced by the various counts, it’s important to know how many parties and party hours each count contributed. A “party” is simply an independent birding “unit” wandering around in the field. It could be one person, or it could be 20. Using our high-end and low-end counts participation-wise, Cuyahoga Falls had 139 participants and a maximum of 56 parties. Goll Woods had four participants and four parties. Knowing the number of parties and party hours helps get a better picture of the amount of birding effort contributed by each count. It helps smooth some of the disparities that will appear when looking at the numbers of birds reported by counts with higher numbers of birders and counts with lower numbers of birders. This year, Ohio counts saw an average maximum of 11 parties in the field, producing an average 67 party hours during the course of the counts.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the 119th NAS CBC. Your efforts are appreciated, and not only are every last starling, House Sparrow, Pacific Loon, and Rufous Hummingbird you find recorded, so too are every hour and mile you walk, drive, or bike. Whoever the Ohio birders are who logged 143 bicycle miles counting birds, (and you know who are), we have your numbers, too!

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 http://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count. All the data, including historical data, are available online at http://netapp.audubon.org/CBCObservation/.

We would also like to thank Craig Caldwell who is the NAS CBC editor for Ohio and who provided the CBC compilation data used in this article. Craig does an excellent job organizing the material, and without his work this simple summary would be simply impossible to organize!

Observers can 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 120th season, consider signing up online next fall. Thanks to everyone who helped with the 119th CBC season!

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Centers for Environmental Information. “National Climate Report, December 2018.” (accessed 13 April 2019).

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