The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 9, 2004


Christmas Bird Count sets record

Birder Steve Spang checks for birds on the Town Green. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

With temperatures reaching the high forties and some sun in the morning but rain in the afternoon, fourteen birders plus feeder-watchers participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, January 4. (Literalist readers take note: the count is never conducted on Christmas Day, but is held on a chosen day during the three-week period ending the Sunday after New Year's Day.) This was the 31st consecutive year of the count in Carlisle and the 104th year in the U.S. Carlisle south of Route 225, where the census took place, is at the northern edge of the 15-mile diameter Concord Christmas Count circle.

Thanks to mild weather, energetic observers, and diligent feeder-watchers, the variety of birds found broke all records: 47 species, 13 more than last year! The previous high was 44 in 1997. Although no species new to the count were found, there were several unusual sightings. Eric Darling spotted a Great Blue Heron flying over the Spencer Brook valley, the first since 1994. Ken Harte found two American Black Ducks, the first since 1995, in the Spencer Brook pondage (plenty of open water this year) between Russell and Concord Streets. Don and Greg Southall heard a Ring-necked Pheasant's distinctive squawk off River Road, the first since 1995. Only once seen previously (also in 1995), not just one but two Eastern Towhees were found — one that had been visiting the Brownriggs' feeder on Acton Street since mid-December, the other discovered off River Road by the Southall team, along with a Gray Catbird.

Hawks were scarce, except for six Red-tailed Hawks and a record high four Cooper's Hawks. The only owl on the count was a Barred Owl that feeder- watcher Sylvia Willard discovered in her back yard off Bellows Hill Road. Another fine feeder find was a flock of 43 Pine Siskins at Jean Keskulla's feeder off Concord Street, accounting for half of the Pine Siskins in the entire Concord Count circle. After scattered sightings in December, only two Common Redpolls were left, found by the Brownriggs at Betty Valentine's feeder on Acton Street.

The most common bird this year was American Goldfinch (304, a record high), followed by Black-capped Chickadee (287), Dark-eyed Junco (269), and Mourning Dove (250, another record high). Other record-high counts were 21 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, 4 Northern Flickers, 128 White-breasted Nuthatches, 75 Northern Cardinals, and 13 Song Sparrows.

Where have they gone?

Some species often seen but missed this year on count day were Red-shouldered and Sharp-shinned Hawks (down throughout the Concord Count circle), Ruffed Grouse (not seen since 2000), Great Black-backed Gull, and Fox Sparrow (also missed last year and down throughout the Concord circle). Another species that used to be a regular winter visitor but has not been seen on the count since 1990 is Evening Grosbeak.

Altogether 2,644 individuals were located, 610 more than last year and the second highest count ever. Observers this year were D'Ann and Tom Brownrigg, Sandy Cofran, Eric and Margaret Darling, Jo Ann Hackett, Ken Harte (Carlisle coordinator), Marilyn Harte, Ellen Huber, John Huehnergard, Lyn Oleksiak, Don and Greg Southall and Steve Spang. Special thanks to those who stand and wait: the feeder-watchers, whose observations are so important for a thorough census.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito