The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 11, 2002


Bluebirds and robins star in Carlisle Christmas bird count

On Sunday, December 30, a cold, crisp day with bright sun following a full moon, seventeen hardy birders tramped the woods, fields and swamps of Carlisle south of Route 225 for the annual Christmas Bird Count. This was the 29th consecutive year of this count in Carlisle and the 102nd year of this winter census in the U.S. Each count is conducted within a 15-mile diameter circle; last year there were 1,880 such circles in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America, and on a few Pacific islands. Carlisle is at the northern edge of the Concord circle, which is centered at the intersection of the boundaries of Concord, Sudbury, Maynard, and Acton.

New to the count this year were two species, both found by former Carlisle resident Don Southall off River Road: a Wild Turkey and a Gray Catbird. Although turkeys have become common in some parts of town (there was a flock of 15 on the Sorli farm December 26), this is the first time one has cooperated with the Christmas Count. Catbirds winter in this area once in a great while; the only other Catbird in the Concord circle this year was found on the south side of Concord.

Other highlights were two Cooper's Hawks (one of which was seen by Jean Keskulla and Neils Larsen on Concord Street), a Barred Owl at 4:30 a.m. in Estabrook Woods (the only one in the Concord circle), 11 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, two Northern Flickers, a Fox Sparrow at Keskulla's and six Pine Siskins off Russell Street.

Several species were present in record numbers this year, including 13 Red-tailed Hawks, 95 White-breasted Nuthatches, 20 Carolina Wrens, 36 Eastern Bluebirds and 187 American Robins. The last two species were found in record quantity throughout the Concord circle. The commonest bird this year was the Black-capped Chickadee: 335 were found. Dark-eyed Junco came in second with 233.

Some birds in decline

Some species often seen but missed this year were Mallard, Northern Goshawk, Ruffed Grouse, and Great Black-backed Gull. Grouse have been in slow decline since 1983, when 12 were found, while Ring-necked Pheasants haven't been found on the count since 1995, having peaked at 15 in 1980. I believe the main cause of the scarcity of these ground-nesting species is the great increase in the coyote population over the last 15 or so years. Another species that used to be a regular winter visitor but has not been seen on the count since 1990 is Evening Grosbeak.

Altogether 2,062 individuals of 42 different species were located, about the same as last year's totals of 1,936 individuals and 43 species. The highest individuals count ever was 2,925 in 1984, while the highest species count was 44 in 1997. Since the first count in 1973, 73 different species have been recorded.

Observers this year were Justin Brown, D'Ann and Tom Brownrigg, Sandy Cofran, Eric Darling, Susan Emmons, Jo Ann Hackett, Ken Harte (Carlisle coordinator), Marilyn Harte, Ellen Huber, John Huehnergard, Lyn Oleksiak, Nancy Schwarzel, Erin Smith, Don and Greg Southall, and Steve Spang. Thanks also to the feeder-watchers whose observations are always important for the count.

Birders take a mid-day break at the Hartes' to tally up the birds seen so far and to enjoy a bowl of hot chili. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito