The Clearwater area’s foggiest Great Backyard Bird Count (Feb. 12 – 15) made it a little difficult to identify species. Since a high of 55 species in 2010, the number of local species steadily dropped to a record low last year, only to dip by one this year (35) becoming the lowest since our GBBC gained a following in 2007.
Although species were down, the average number of individual birds per checklist (30.8) was the greatest since the event gained popularity.
The number of birds recorded soared to 5,084, which was 2,133 more than last year. Those measures were affected by a record number of Common redpolls along with a large number of Pine siskins.
Flock sizes were actually greater for the siskins, but they didn’t appear on as many checklists as the redpolls. The majority of other species had a decrease. American goldfinches disappeared for the first time since being sighted in 2006. Only two species of waterfowl were seen, down from the usual five. All woodpecker species were slightly down.
Other observations include a lone Evening grosbeak sighted after none in 2015, far fewer than their record 556 in 2008; Red crossbill (25 in one flock) stuck to the pattern of appearing every other year; six White-crowned sparrows appeared, the first since 2010; and a lone Red-winged blackbird announced spring was on the way after failing to make that declaration for the last two years.
Black-capped chickadees appeared on the most checklists (110) followed by Common redpolls (91), Common ravens (74), Red-breasted nuthatches (72), and Northern flickers (39). The fairly numerous Pine siskins just missed the top five by four lists (35).
The top five for the most individual birds were Common redpolls (2,128), Pine siskins (1,292), Black-capped chickadees (598), Common ravens (255), and Red-breasted nuthatches (159). Mountain chickadees (101) continued a three-year climb to reach sixth place.
With 150 countries participating, our community tied for 18th place for checklists (165) with Ecuador. First for checklists was the United States (131,466) with second place for Canada (13,665).
Though checklist numbers were much lower than the United States, four countries surpassed the U.S. (665) for species – India (785), Colombia (758), Ecuador (752), and Mexico (702). Canada (246) was in 23rd place.
Fortunately, new newcomers joined locally, more than offsetting former participants whose busy lives prevented participation. Thirty-three households with about 41 observers counted this year, up slightly over the last few years.
The gain in new participants is probably a direct result of the great promotion by the Clearwater Library, which had a display about the event, provided blank local checklists, and had the librarians mentioned the GBBC to almost every visitor. Appreciation for promoting the event also goes to Forest House, Home Hardware, RONA, and the Times.
In conclusion, the Great Backyard Bird Count certainly gained wings the last few years with more countries and people participating. More information and contest photos are available at www.birdcount.org. Many thanks to everyone who managed to fit counts into their busy schedule. Certainly, the GBBC appreciates your effort as a citizen scientist and look forward to your participation Feb. 17 – 20 in 2017.