The 122nd Christmas Bird Count in Iowa

The 2021-2022 CBC included 35 counts from Iowa.  The state experienced above average temperatures during December.  High temps occurred on the 15th when Princeton-Camanche reported 72 degrees.  Only counts held on or after the 29th reported any snow.  Single digit or below-zero lows were reported only on January 2nd and 3rd.  The total species count was 139. Most larger counts occurred along the Mississippi River.  Just as last year, the high count was at Davenport with 97 species.  Other high counts were Green Island (93), Clinton (90), Saylorville (90), Burlington (89), and Keokuk (88).  Northwest Clayton County (68) led the northern counts.  De Soto NWR (75) led the Missouri River counts.

The best bird was a Smith’s Longspur reported on the Clinton count from the Illinois side.  It had last occurred on an Iowa count in 1992.  Clinton also produced an American Pipit and an Eastern Phoebe.  Horned Grebes were at Clinton, Muscatine, and Burlington.  A Franklin’s Gull lingered at Spirit Lake.  Two Virginia Rails and a Chipping Sparrow were on that hot count in Princeton.  Snowy Owls were at Yellow River and Jamaica.  A Townsend’s Solitaire was at SE Clayton County.  Red Crossbills were at Buchanan County. White-winged Crossbills were at Green Island.  An Orange-crowned Warbler was at Cedar Rapids.

Trumpeter Swans were again in large numbers statewide.  A record number of Tundra Swans were primarily at Clinton.  Greater White-fronted Geese and Snows were in very high numbers primarily at DeSoto NWR.  Mallards aside, Gadwall and Northern Shovelers counted best of the dabbling ducks.  Canvasbacks were in good numbers largely at Clinton and Keokuk.  Among the divers, Common Goldeneyes, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Buffleheads, and Ruddy Ducks all had sizable counts. Common Mergansers were down somewhat.  Hooded Mergansers were in relatively good numbers.  Long-tailed Ducks were on three counts.  A record number of Sandhill Cranes were reported at Clinton.  American White Pelicans were in high numbers on the Mississippi and at Saylorville.  Ring-billed Gulls were in record numbers.  Glaucous Gulls were reported from five counts, Iceland Gulls from four, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls from three.

A record 15 Golden Eagles were on eight counts.  Northern Harriers and Rough-legged Hawks were in record numbers.  Bald Eagles were in average numbers but reported from every count.  Red-shouldered Hawks and Merlins both performed well.  Cooper’s Hawks and American Kestrels did even better.  All the owls counted very well with Northern Saw-whets setting a new high.  Except for Red-headed, all the woodpeckers counted very well also.  It was not a big year for Northern Shrikes and the only Loggerhead was at Des Moines.

White and Red-breasted Nuthatches were in above average numbers and Brown Creepers rebounded nicely from a sixteen-year low.  Winter Wrens were in record numbers, but Carolina Wren numbers dropped significantly.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets were in record numbers.  Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins rebounded very well following an eleven-year low and Hermit Thrushes counted very well also.  Northern Mockingbirds were at Green Island and Clinton.  A Brown Thrasher was at Green Island.  Gray Catbirds were at Davenport, Burlington, and Ames.  Yellow-rumped Warblers were at twice their average.    

The only Spotted Towhee was at DeSoto NWR.  Four Eastern Towhees were found.  Fox Sparrows set a record high.  A Savannah Sparrow was at North Linn.  Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting numbers were down, but lack of snow cover made finding them difficult.  Red-winged Blackbirds were in tremendous numbers and Brown-headed Cowbirds and Common Grackles both set new highs. Rusty Blackbirds were in good numbers and Brewer’s Blackbirds were on four counts.  Eurasian Tree Sparrows were reported north to Northwest Clayton County and west to Ames and Red Rock.