The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 12, 2007


Christmas Bird Count records three new species for Carlisle

Under a gray, sunless sky, with no wind, temperatures just below freezing, and no snow cover, 13 birders fanned out over southern Carlisle on Saturday morning, December 30, for the annual Christmas Bird Count. In the afternoon, the first snow of the season left a familiar white blanket. This was the 34th consecutive year of the count in Carlisle and the 107th 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.

In spite of relatively mild weather, energetic observers, and diligent feeder-watchers, the count of 41 species was well below the record 47 set in 2003, but two more than last year. Total count of individuals was 2,266, up from last year's 1,799 but well below the record 2,925 set in 1984.

Three new species

Most notable this year were three species never before seen on the Carlisle count: Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Don Southall found the kingfisher (which are often found on the count in Concord at Great Meadows, but not this year) on the Concord River, near the Bedford Road bridge. Steve Spang lured the phoebe, one of only three in the Concord Count circle, out of the thick streamside brush in the eastern corner of Hamilton's meadow off Concord Street. Finally, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet that had been visiting the Emmons' feeder on Baldwin Road, was spotted by Don Emmons on count day, with a mate! All three of these recordings are undoubtedly a result of the extraordinarily mild early winter.

Also record-setting were 45 Red-winged Blackbirds, 40 of which were noted by Leslie Thomas above her chicken coop on Estabrook Road. Previous high count was 35 in 2000. Two Sharp-shinned Hawks, one found by Ken Harte on Russell Street and one in Jean Keskulla's yard between Concord Street and Bingham Road, tied the high set in 1988. Other notable birds were an Eastern Towhee found by Eric Darling on South Street, a Brown-headed Cowbird found near the center of town by Steve Spang, and four Purple Finches found by Leslie Thomas in her yard.

The waterfowl count was low — just 16 Canada Geese and one Mallard. The Red-tailed Hawk count of nine was the best since 2001, when 13 were seen. No Ring-necked Pheasants, Ruffed Grouse or Wild Turkeys were found. The last pheasants on the count were single birds in 2003 and 1995, and the last grouse single birds in 2000 and 1998. Both of these ground-nesting species have probably been victims of the spread of coyotes into Carlisle. Turkeys are certainly in the area, but unfortunately were missed on count day.

Gulls were very scarce; the 12 fly-over Herring Gulls was the lowest count since 1980. Despite pre-dawn owling by Eric Darling, Leslie Thomas and Ken Harte, the only owl noted was a Barred Owl seen in daylight by Lyn Oleksiak in the Estabrook Woods behind Autumn Lane. Woodpecker counts were about average, but included only one Pileated Woodpecker, found by John Huehnergard in the Nowell Farme Road area.

Up from last year

Blue Jays were abundant; the count of 232 was more than double last year's 107 and the highest since 1995. Also up a bit from last year were 313 Black-capped Chickadees (298 last year), 141 Tufted Titmice (102 last year), 96 White-breasted Nuthatches (89 last year), 14 Carolina Wrens (11 last year), and 16 Golden-crowned Kinglets (15 last year).

Berry-eating species obviously found plenty to eat and were relatively common. Twenty-six Eastern Bluebirds were nearly triple last year's nine. Seventy-seven American Robins and 80 Cedar Waxwings were nearly double last year's counts of 45 and 43, respectively. But the count of three Northern Mockingbirds was the lowest since 1975. Is this invader from the south moving further north and deserting Carlisle? With their best showing since 2000, 64 White-throated Sparrows and 290 Dark-eyed Juncos were way up from last year. Also up from last year were 166 House Sparrows.

Often found but completely missed this year were Cooper's Hawk, Northern Flicker, Fox Sparrow, Northern Shrike, Common Grackle, Common Redpoll and Pine Siskin. Counts of the last four species were also way down throughout the Concord Count circle.

Accurate counts require a crew of patient feeder-watchers, who record the highest number of each species seen at one time, and which this year included Don Emmons, Kay Fairweather, Jean Keskulla, Betty Meehan and Sylvia Willard. Field observers this year were D'Ann and Tom Brownrigg, Eric and Margaret Darling, Susan and Louisa Emmons, Jo Ann Hackett, Ken Harte (Carlisle coordinator), John Huehnergard, Lyn Oleksiak, Don Southall, Steve Spang and Leslie Thomas.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito