Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Christmas Bird Count Tallies Are In
January 12, 2019
By Steve Grinley

     I just received the summary reports on the Christmas Bird Counts for Cape Ann, which was held December 16, and Newburyport, which was held December 23. Both were held in relatively mild temperatures (30’s and 40’s), which is how this winter has been going so far. There was still open fresh water so waterfowl were well represented and viewing conditions were generally good on both days.

     The highlight of the Cape Ann Count certainly had to be the alcid flight past Halibut and Andrew’s Points. Historical numbers of Dovekies (4,682, previous record 3,018 in 1957), Common Murres (468, previous record of 26) and Puffins (34, previous record of 3) were recorded. These were complimented by 6 Thick-billed Murres, 357 Razorbills, and 216 kittiwakes. Four Pomerines jaegers was also a Count high and only the second time this species has occurred in the 86th year history of the Cape Ann Count.

     Other highlights included a Cackling Goose, a new species for the Count (though it only became a species a few years ago, being split from the similar looking, but larger, Canada Goose). An out-of-season Indigo Bunting was also a new species for the Count. The Black Vulture that was hanging out at the Rockport Transfer Station and Dunkin Donuts was only the second time one was found on the Count, while no Turkey Vultures were counted that day! Two Turkey Vultures were found on the Newburyport Count.

     Other record high counts for Cape Ann (including a few ties) were 2 Pacific Loons (only 8th occurrence), 157 Wild Turkeys, 3 Saw-whet Owls, 5 Merlin, 13 Fish Crows, 9 Common Ravens, 392 Tufted Titmice, and 12 Winter Wrens. The 12 Rusty Blackbirds that were counted was the highest since 1976, and 49 Pine Siskins was the highest since 1980.

     Notable low counts on Cape Ann were American Crows at 392 (lowest since 2003), 21 Carolina wrens (still recovering from winter of 2015), and only 16 American Tree Sparrows, (lowest since1946, 3rd lowest ever). Newburyport’s Bird Count also noted a record low number of 58 Tree Sparrows.

     The Newburyport Christmas Bird Count was less dramatic, but still had some notable sightings. A record high 21 Dovekies were counted, residual from the big flight that occurred off Cape Ann the week before no doubt. The Count also found a record high 9 Black guillemots as well as 25 Razorbills.

     A record high count of 572 Black Scoters were found off the coast and a continuing King Eider was at Emerson Rocks off Lot 7 on the Parker River Refuge. Other record high numbers were 5 Peregrine Falcons, 27 Fish Crows and 16 Gray Catbirds. Also notable was only the 3rd occurrence of a Red-headed Woodpecker on the Count, 1 late Chipping Sparrow and 1 out-of-season Baltimore Oriole was found.

     For winter finches, 5 Common Redpolls, 1 Pine Siskin, 389 American Goldfinch and 63 Evening Grosbeaks were counted. Two Northern shrikes were seen, but only 2 Snowy Owls and 9 Bald Eagles were counted, which will make my Eagles & Owls walk this Sunday a challenge.

     Yes, this Sunday afternoon, January 13, is my annual Eagles and Owls walk . It is FREE and open to all ages, and all bird watching experience levels are welcome. We meet at Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift at the Route 1 Traffic Circle in Newburyport at 1pm. We will car pool to search the Merrimack River, Plum Island, and or Salisbury in search of Snowy Owls and Bald Eagles as well as other winter ducks, geese and land birds. Dress warmly and bring binoculars if you have them. No pre-registration, just show up. Hope to see you on Sunday!


Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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