Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Rarities and Late Birds Highlight Christmas Bird Count
December 31, 2011
By Steve Grinley

     The 74th annual Newburyport Christmas Bird Count was held last Monday, December 26th. Count Coordinator Tom Young has posted some preliminary results which total 115 species, which is 21 more birds than last year when afternoon snow shortened the count. Four of the species found this year were never previously recorded on the Count.

     The four new birds included the rare Cassin’s Kingbird and Barnacle Goose in West Newbury, which decided to stay around more than a month for the Count. The barnacle goose was obliging by moving to the Cherry Hill Reservoir, which is where the Cassin’s kingbird has been hanging out. The move was probably due to the Artichoke Reservoir taking on a coating of ice at the end of last weekend. Also new were three very late great egrets on Plum Island, and a Townsend’s warbler, a bird of the Pacific Northwest, appearing at the Ipswich team leader’s residence on Christmas Day, and staying for the Monday Count.

     Our milder than normal temperatures for November and December were reflected in the number of fresh water ducks and shorebirds that lingered for the count. Wood duck, shovelers, pintail , redhead and a canvasback were among the ducks present for the count, most in good numbers of individuals. Shorebirds included 5 black-bellied plovers and 2 long-billed dowitchers. In addition to the 3 great egrets, 6 great blue herons and 3 American bitterns were found in the open marshes.

     Notable for raptors were the 10 bald eagles that were counted along with 56 red-tailed hawks, 7 rough-legged hawks, and 5 peregrine falcons. Only a single kestrels, sharp-shinned hawk and merlin were present. Three snowy owls were found along with 4 short-eared owls, 11 screech owls, 9 great-horned owls and 2 saw-whet owls.

     Red-bellied woodpeckers showed their growing presence with 36 birds counted, at the cost of only 19 hairy woodpeckers. Downy’s were strong with 140 individuals counted. The mild weather justifies the 23 northern flickers that were still around, along with a single yellow-bellied sapsucker. The 4 pileated woodpeckers round out the woodpecker count.

     Ten belted kingfishers were present with all the open water. A lone northern shrike was found and 2 winter wrens and 2 marsh wrens were present. The only other warblers found, in addition to the Townsend’s, were 7 yellow-rumps and a common yellowthroat.

     Thrushes were well represented with 1306 robins, 123 bluebirds, and 5 hermit thrushes this year. There were also 2 catbirds found and 39 mockingbirds counted.

     Sparrows numbers were unimpressive, but 2 field sparrows were still here as were 2 towhees. Only a single grackle was found (feeder folks rejoice!) and 4 cowbirds, though 218 red-winged blackbirds were counted. One rusty blackbird was also found.

The 115th bird was one that was coming to one of my customer’s feeders, which she was kind enough to share with me and the Christmas Bird count. Nancy Weinberg of Newburyport has been entertaining a Baltimore oriole right through the day of the count. She had up to three orioles as of a few weeks ago, but only one lingered for the Count. She was even kind enough to send along photos of the bird. 

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
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