Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Christmas Bird Count Results Announced
January 16, 2021
By Steve Grinley
This year’s Newburyport Christmas Bird Count, which took place on the Sunday after Christmas, tallied some impressive numbers despite having fewer observers due to the pandemic. Compiler Tom Young announced a total of 119 species counted, which represents the second most in the 83-year history of the count. He noted that 121 species is the record, which has been achieved twice. A number of new record high counts for individual species were also achieved.
Two Snow Geese and six Brant were found among more than three thousand Canada geese in the area. Twelve Mute Swans were found. Record high numbers of Common Eider (7,527) and Black Scoters (5,503) were counted, and many of these continue in the mouth of the Merrimack River and all along the shores of Plum Island. A single King Eider was also found and one continues off Crane Beach, viewable from Sandy Point on Plum Island. A single Harlequin Duck was seen during count week, only the fourth time for this duck in the count’s history.
Two Barrow’s Goldeneye were also notable.
Nine Great Blue Herons are toughing out our New England winter, as are two Great Egret, the latter a fourth record for the count. Four Turkey Vultures were spotted and a record 17 Bald Eagles were counted. Fifteen Northern Harriers were seen over the area’s marshes and dunes and two Rough-legged Hawks were a highlight.
The only alcids found were twenty-nine Razorbills and two Black Guillemots. A single Iceland Gull was the only gull standout.
The owl show was certainly impressive! A record high count of five Saw-whet Owls, along with fourteen Eastern Screech-Owls, fifty Great Horned Owls, six Snowy Owls, four Barred Owls, 2 Short-eared Owls and one Long-eared Owl!
A record twelve Belted Kingfishers were found. Red-bellied Woodpeckers showed their increasing numbers with ninety-two counted, second only to the 156 Downy Woodpecker. Three Pileated Woodpeckers were also noted. The five Peregrine Falcons was tied for its record high count and two Merlin and one Kestrel rounded out the falcon numbers.
An Eastern Phoebe was only the 7th record for that species in count history. One Northern Shrike was also found. Four Fish Crows was only the fifth time that species appeared in the count and sixteen Common Ravens was a new high count for that Corvid.
A record high 4,022 American Robin were tallied along with 152 Eastern Bluebirds, three Hermit thrushes, 11 Gray Catbirds and 60 Northern Mockingbirds. An American Pipit was the tenth record for the count and a Pine Warbler was only the seventh record in count history. Twelve rusty blackbirds were a record high count for that species.
The record high count of 247 Red-breasted Nuthatches almost matched its cousin White-breasted Nuthatch count of 278. The nuthatches signaled the start of an irruptive winter for northern species resulting in eight Purple Finch, a record high 88 Red Crossbills, two White-winged Crossbills, 128 Redpolls, 8 Pine Siskins, 533 American Goldfinch and 45 Evening Grosbeaks making the count.
All-in-all, 38,119 total individual birds were counted, comprising the 119 total species represented. A fine day’s work by all the volunteers who counted!