Vincent Smith, Compiler
On June 2, 2012 Valley Forge Audubon Society conducted it’s 27th Spring Bird Count. I would like to thank each of the 11 Section Leaders and 63 Volunteers for making 2012 a major success. The weather was great and the birds came in with a good showing. This year brought in 94 species which is slightly higher than the 27 year average of 92 species. The total number of birds counted was the second highest on record with 11,299 birds (previous high total was 2008 with 11,497). Most exciting is that our volunteer numbers have been 60 people or more since 2008, (average is 50 volunteers).
This year demonstrated some of the highest totals ever counted for some species. Some of those increases reflect real increases in birds, but some is probably attributed to the hard work and commitment of our section leaders and volunteers. We have more eyes and ears out there finding the birds in their territories. In my time as compiler, I have been amazed to see the consistency of our leader reports. For many, the species numbers for each section are within few of years past (exceptions are species that have large fluctuations such as Canada Geese and American Robin).
First the good news. Numerous species observed this year were the highest counts ever recorded. The chart listed below shows the numbers for each species and the average over the 27 year count.
|Great Blue Heron||40||11|
|Pileated Woodpecker||7 (ties with 2011)||1|
|N. Rough-winged Swallow||133||54|
Species that appear to be trending up are as follows:
|Double-crested Cormorant||6 (late migrants- since 2003)||3|
|Common Merganser||2 (Present last 4 years)(Has bred)||1|
|Bald Eagle||2 (Present since 2006)||0 (Breeds in our area)|
|Ruby-throated Hummingbird||12 (double digits since 2007 - except 9 birds 2010||6|
|Blue Gray Gnatcatcher||61||23 (50 range last 4 years)|
Now the bad news. Field nesting species, secondary growth species and warblers seem to be in decline. Field and secondary growth nesters appear to be trending down due to either natural succession or changes in habitat. Field nesters like Eastern Meadowlarks have few large expansive meadows left in our area. Any hayfields or meadows are either succeeding to brush or the mowing cycle prevents a successful nesting (Hayfields managed for birds should not be mowed until Mid-July to allow meadow species to nest. Unfortunately, in todays world, most farmers are mowing in June to get extra fodder). Successional species like Yellow-breasted Chat, Field Sparrow, Blue-winged Warbler and White-eye Vireo are losing habitat as brush returns to forest through natural succession (Valley Forge Audubon has recently received a grant to create early sucessional scrub habitat at three locations in the Ridely/Crum Creeks IBA). Wood Warblers appear to be in decline due to a combination of factors such as, broken forested areas, over-development, suburban sprawl, invasive species (plants and animals) people and their pets. Keep those kitties inside and dogs on leash. Common Grackles are in significant decline. Their decline may be tied to threats on their wintering grounds, namely the use of avian controls of blackbirds. Unfortunately, Common Grackles appear to be following the same trend as Rusty Blackbirds did in the 1990’s.
Here is a list of species either in decline or trending down:
|American Kestrel||12||6 (In decline since 1995)|
|Ring-necked Pheasant||0||5 (In decline since 1995)|
|Kentucky Warbler||0||2 (Not observed since 2009)|
|Yellow-breasted Chat||0||1 (Not observed since 2003)|
Two of the rarer species observed on this year’s count were 2 Broad-winged Hawks, (Section 1 & 4) and a late White-throated Sparrow observed at a feeder in Section 5.
Again, I would like to thank all the section leaders (Mike Coulter, Rick Keyser, Bruce Piecukonis, Jan Gordon, Barbara Hiebsch, Debbie Beer, Lynn Roman, Tom Reeves, Joe Hudson, Edie Parnum ) and volunteers for making this year’s count a success.
Pencil into your calendars the Christmas Bird Count which will take place on December 22, 2012 this year.
Click here to download the complete 2012 Spring Bird Count stats.