Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

A Few Surprises on Cape Ann Count
December 20, 2014
By Steve Grinley

     Jim Berry of Ipswich released some preliminary results for the Cape Ann Christmas Count. Last Sunday’s Count tallied 109 species, which is about average for the Cape Ann Count. The numbers of individuals were unremarkable for many species, though there were some Count high totals for some of the common wintering and resident birds and a few surprises. Good weather may have hurt chances of any true rarities, or many pelagic birds from being blown in off the ocean.

     Only one snow goose was found among 1216 Canada geese counted. The five mute swans were less than usual, but that might be a good thing. One wood duck was discovered and only 17 gadwall were found, despite the amount of open water. Greater scaup numbered over 100 for the second consecutive year and those beautiful harlequin ducks numbered over 100 for the eighth year in a row at 171 for this year. Second highest Count totals went to black ducks at 729 (980 in 2008) and the 680 buffleheads. 

     The 45 red-necked grebes counted was 2nd highest count total of that species, with only 56 in 1995 being higher. Only eight gannets and two kittiwakes were seen, not surprising considering the light winds that day. One surprise was the lone great egret that was found. Small numbers of great blue heron, of which there were nine this day, will often try to over-winter, but egrets seldom stay this long.

     The low numbers of Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks were overshadowed by the first two red-shouldered hawks found on the Count since 1997. This was also only the sixth time that an American woodcock was found on the Count. The 17 razorbills and 22 black guillemots were the only alcids found this year.

     Owls seen or heard were seventeen eastern screech owls, ten great horned owls, one barred owl, and three snowy owls,(compared to the record seventeen snowy owls last year!)

     Woodpecker numbers were high this year with a new high count of red-bellied woodpeckers at 66, downy woodpeckers at 178 and 9 pileated woodpecker. These latter two were their 2nd highest totals in Count history. Twenty hairy woodpeckers, twenty-six Northern flickers and 2 yellow-bellied sapsuckers were also found. 

     New high counts of 387 tufted titmice and 241 white-breasted nuthatches were reached. Strong numbers of Carolina wrens (75), American robins (1925), Eastern bluebirds (35), and gray catbirds (7) were also noted. Thirty-nine red-winged blackbirds was a new high count for them on this Christmas Count and the first two fox sparrows since 2003 were found.

     I guess the highlight of this year’s Cape Ann Count were the two Bohemian waxwings that were found on Andrew’s Point by Brian Harris, who picked them out of a flock of 100 cedar waxwings. So be sure to check those waxwings carefully this time of year!

     Just a reminder that tomorrow, Sunday, is the Newburyport Christmas Count. It will be interesting to compare results.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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