The 121st Christmas Bird Count in Iowa

The 2020-2021 CBC included 34 counts from Iowa.  The state experienced above average temperatures during December.  High temps occurred on the 22nd when Muscatine reported 48 degrees.  Single digit lows were reported primarily from January counts, although a low of one degree was reported from Buchanan County on Christmas Day.  Except for the southeast, snow was present on many counts statewide.  The total species count was 144. The larger counts occurred in the southeast along the Mississippi River.  The high count was at Davenport with 97 species.   Other high counts were Keokuk (93) and Burlington (90).  Northwest Clayton County (64) and Spirit Lake (62) led the northern counts.  De Soto NWR (70) led the Missouri River counts.

No new species for the state were recorded.  Possibly the best bird was a California Gull at the Saylorville Reservoir.  Fortunately, the exciting fall irruption of Evening Grosbeaks across Iowa extended into the count period and four were reported from Clinton.  A Virginia Rail dallied long enough to make the Burlington count.  Green Island discovered a Sedge Wren.  A Baltimore Oriole was at Davenport area feeder.  And although Bremer County did not report to the NAS this season, a Dickcissel on that count deserves mention here.  

Trumpeter Swans were again in large numbers statewide.  Nearly 3000 Tundra Swans were on five counts with the majority at Clinton.  Greater White-fronted Geese were on many counts, but Snows were not plentiful.  Dabbling and diving ducks were both in generally good numbers, however ten American Black Ducks statewide was likely a record low.  Canvasbacks were in excellent numbers with over 25,000 at both Clinton and Keokuk.  Over 13,000 Common Mergansers were at Red Rock Reservoir.  Hooded Mergansers were in record numbers.  Single Surf Scoters were at Burlington and Keokuk.  A Black Scoter was also at Keokuk.  Long-tailed Ducks were at Westfield and Spirit Lake.  Gray Partridge were on four counts.  No Ruffed Grouse were found.  A record number of Sandhill Cranes were reported with 284 at Clinton.  Gulls were tallied in good numbers.  Iceland Gulls were reported from two counts and Lesser Black-backed Gulls from three.  No Glaucous Gulls were found.

Eleven Golden Eagles were on five counts.  A Northern Goshawk was at Westfield.  Bald Eagles were in average numbers but reported from every count.  Red-shouldered Hawks approached record numbers.  Merlins equaled their record high.  A Prairie Falcon was at DeSoto NWR.  Owl numbers were quite good, and Barred Owls were at a record high.  Snowy Owls were found at Clinton and Union Slough NWR.  Red-headed Woodpeckers suffered a major correction following two years of record counts.  It was not a big year for Northern Shrikes and the only Loggerhead was at Burlington.

Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice rebounded nicely from ten-year lows.  There was a modest irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatchs.  Brown Creepers were at a 16-year low.  Carolina Wrens were found as far north as Mason City and Decorah.  Marsh Wrens were at Clinton and Keokuk.  It was generally a poor year for frugivores.  Eastern Bluebirds, American Robins, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were all at 11-year lows.  

Sparrows were found in average numbers.  Lincoln Sparrows were at DeSoto NWR and Des Moines.  Lapland Longspur numbers were reduced, and Snow Buntings approached a 20-year low.  Red-winged Blackbirds were in tremendous numbers at Des Moines and Davenport. Brewer’s Blackbirds were at Davenport, Jamaica, and Westfield. Cedar Rapids and SE Clayton County each had two White-winged Crossbills.   Red Crossbills and Common Redpolls were both on five counts.  A Common Yellowthroat was at Keokuk and a Palm Warbler was at Northwest Clayton County.

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