Valley Forge Audubon Society’s 2012 Christmas Bird Count was predicted to be a weather disaster. Cold temperatures and high winds, (over 40 MPH) threatened us with few birds and limited volunteers. However, our section leaders and loyal volunteers pulled through to make for a respectable count. Thank you all. It is only through all of your dedication and commitment that this event is possible. Our average volunteer count is 65 and this year we had over 89 participants.
The total species count was 77, which was slightly higher than our average of 75. The wind made for feast or famine. Volunteers mentioned long stretchers where no birds were observed in usual hot spots.
Waterfowl numbers were a little light. An exception was Snow Geese (864) which was the 4th highest total for our records. The 2 Cackling Geese from Section 6 were a great find as was the Green-wing Teal from Section 11.
Raptors were a highlight of this year’s count, with highest totals for Black Vulture (259), Turkey Vulture (256), Bald Eagle (6), Red-tailed Hawk (119), and Cooper’s Hawk (13) (tied with 2001 and 2011). A count week Northern Goshawk was a great find as well as the Red-shouldered Hawk on count day from Section 11. The 3 Peregrine Falcons and 2 Merlin were outstanding observations. Two of the Peregrines plus the two Merlins were found in and around Norristown. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but American Kestrels continue to show a decline. Two birds tied for 2010 with the lowest number over our 29 year total, which is most unsettling when you consider that our average is 18 birds. We hope to reverse this trend by instituting an American Kestrel Nest Box Trail. (We are looking for volunteers so if you are interested in monitoring our boxes, let us know.)
Ring-necked Pheasant continues to decline with no shows in the CBC for the last 5 years. Also absent this year was Wild Turkey.
Section 7 was the only location for Kildeer (19).
The Lesser Black-backed Gull from Section 6 in and around Norristown was a great find.
Great Horned Owl and Eastern Screech Owl were below average. This was most likely related to the weather. We had fewer owling hours and the high winds either limited owl responses or made it a challenge for volunteers to hear call backs. However, the Northern Saw-whet Owl from Section 4 was a fantastic observation.
The two irruptive species noted this year were Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskin. The last big influx of Red-breasted Nuthatch was 2005. The 37 Pine Siskins came from one location in section 11. The last influx of this species was 2008.
A major highlight for this year’s count was sparrows. Sparrows were well represented with the following species: Eastern Towhee, American Tree Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow (highest count total with 7 birds), Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and Junco.
The 20 Eastern Meadowlarks from Section 11 were the 4th highest count on record.
I would like to thank all our section leaders: Mike Coulter, Rick Keyser, Bruce Piecukonis, Dr. Jan Gordon, Barbara Hiebsch, Debbie Beer, Lynn Roman, Tom Reeves, Joe Hudson, and Edie Parnum. I would also like to thank all the volunteers who showed up on a less than perfect day. Thanks for all the rare bird reports.
As a heads up, this years Spring Count is scheduled for June 1, 2013.