Friday, January 17, 2003
Birds go under cover on Christmas count day
On Sunday, December 29, with mostly clear skies and temperatures rising above freezing by mid-morning, thirteen birders tramped the woods, fields, and swamps of Carlisle south of Route 225 for the annual Christmas Bird Count. This was the thirtieth consecutive year of this count in Carlisle and the 103rd year of this winter census in the U.S. Each count is conducted within a 15-mile diameter circle; last year there were 1,936 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 on the intersection of the boundaries of Concord, Sudbury, Maynard and Acton.
The new bird on this year's count, not only new to Carlisle but also to the Concord Count, was a Common Raven. This big relative of the crow from New Hampshire or Maine was glimpsed gliding over Westford Street, between Cross and Acton Streets, by Betty Valentine and D'Ann Brownrigg just before noon. Then in mid-afternoon, Tom Brownrigg heard the distinctive croak of a raven from his yard at the corner of Acton and Westford Streets, but was unable to spot it. However, last Tuesday afternoon, January 14, it made another appearance and was found by Tom on Cross Street. Ravens have been gradually expanding their range southward and should be looked for — often soaring, all black, with longer tail, shaggier throat, and heavier bill than a crow.
Another bird new to Carlisle, seen during count week but missed on the day of the count, was a Yellow-breasted Chat that has been visiting Sally and Ed Swift's yard on River Road. Other highlights were four Common Mergansers found during count week by Tom Brownrigg in the Concord River near the Route 225 bridge, a count-week Northern Goshawk at the Oleksiaks' on Autumn Lane, three Great Horned Owls (two found by Jean Keskulla at the foot of Russell Street), a Barred Owl at 4:30 a.m. in the Estabrook Woods, nine Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Northern Flicker during count week, 15 Carolina Wrens and 27 Eastern Bluebirds.
Last year's record-breaking count of 187 American Robins was eclipsed by this year's amazing tally of 533, including 415 seen passing overhead at dusk from Estabrook Road, headed to an evening roost somewhere west of Carlisle. After robins, the most common bird this year was the Black-capped Chickadee: 195 were found. American Goldfinch came in third with 165.
Where were they hiding?
Some species often seen but missed this year on count day were Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, Ruffed Grouse, Great Black-backed Gull, Fox Sparrow, Common Redpoll, and Pine Siskin. Another species that used to be a regular winter visitor but has not been seen on the count since 1990 is Evening Grosbeak. The feeder watchers had an especially hard time finding birds on count day, when feeders were inexplicably quiet.
Altogether 2,034 individuals of 34 different species were located, down from last year's totals of 2,064 individuals and 42 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, altogether 75 different species have been recorded, either on the count or during count week.
Observers this year were Justin Brown, D'Ann and Tom Brownrigg, Sandy Cofran, Eric and Margaret Darling, Susan and Louisa Emmons, Ken Harte (Carlisle coordinator), Marilyn Harte, Ellen Huber, Nancy Schwarzel, and Betty Valentine. Thanks also to the feeder watchers whose observations are always important for the count.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito