Most of the field work for this 20th annual Little River IBA Count was done on an evening of cloudy weather then rain with thunder (temps in the 70s, winds N at 2 mph), followed by a cool day with periods of misty precipitation (temps hovered around 60 degrees all day, winds ENE at 5-8 mph). High humidity made birding less comfortable than usual on both days.
Altogether, there were 7 teams and 12 observers in the field for a total of 61.5 hours. The hours of effort were only down 0.5 from last year, but still well below the Count’s average of 71.2. April and Bambi splitting the territory of Al and Lois for the first time added to the hours of effort, but we missed hours usually birded in West Granville by John. The total number of species counted was 104, falling below our average of 111. The number of individuals at 2491 was the lowest ever, which might be due in part to the weather, but the past five years of counts have produced significantly lower numbers in several families of birds as you will read below.
Misses of note include Hooded and Common Merganser, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, Acadian Flycather, Bank Swallow (holes in bank seen in usual spot, but no sign of the swallows), White-throated and Savannah Sparrows, and finally, Virginia Rail that had been identified in 5 of the previous 6 years.
To give more detail to the decline in individuals of some species, recorded in parentheses after each species is the count for this year, followed by last year’s count and finally the 20-year average. Let us begin with Red-tailed Hawk (2, 10, 5.5) and Yellow-billed Cuckoo (1, 7, 2.5). Also low in number this year were the woodpeckers, with Downy (5, 18, 7.9), Hairy (5, 11, 10.7) and Pileated (5, 14, 9.9). Next is the hard-hit flycatcher family, Pewee (26, 52, 48.6), Willow (2, 6, 4.3), Least (7, 9, 14.1) and Eastern Kingbird (9, 20, 17.9). The family of thrushes follows, with Veery (67, 102, 139.5), Hermit (6, 9, 22.6), Wood (16, 40, 45.9) and Robin (88, 172, 136.4). Also having a low count this year was Catbird (49, 74, 73.8). Then comes our prized songbirds, the warblers, with Ovenbird’s second low count ever (146, 175, 238.8), Louisiana Waterthrush (3, 3, 6.3), Black-and-white (43, 61, 77.7), Blackburnian (24, 30, 53.7), BT Blue (32, 47, 80.3), Yellow-rump’s lowest count ever (4, 5, 15.6) and BT Green (26, 21, 50.7). The numbers for most of these warbler species have been lower in the last five years and more numerous in the preceding 15 years, so the averages, even as high as they seem, are masking the actual decline we are seeing on our count in recent years.
High counts were found in just one species, Wild Turkey (57, 16.7). Even so, we did have several good finds this year. Myles and Kathy recorded a Kestrel for the first time since 2017 and only found in 6 other counts over the 20 years. Whip-poor-will made the count again after missing for 3 years. Spotted Sandpiper was a lucky find by me and Gail at Cobble Mtn Reservoir. Tom identified two Ruffed Grouse nearby Miller Swamp in Blandford, and I needn’t say that this species is always welcome. He also gave us a reasonable count of Canada Warbler, finding 5 of the 6 counted this year. John and Joanne contributed the only Woodcock on the count and Doug had the only Barred Owl (there were 8 counted last year). One last piece of good bird news, the Brown Cowbird count was just 15, after 36 were counted last year and the 20-year average is at 29. Woo-hoo!
Joanne Fortin graciously hosted the compilation get-together at her home in Westfield. Appetizers, pizza and salads were feasted upon by all, not to mention beverages. Lois treated us to home-made cookies for dessert. Joanne gave us a sought-after tour of her lovely perennial gardens and provided gardening tips as well. The compilation detail and sharing of birding adventures was as interesting as always. Great fun was had by all!
Click below to view or download complete count results.