The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 11, 2008


Christmas Bird Count in Carlisle yields a few surprises

With rain the day before, snow the day after, and temperatures mostly in the thirties, one might think that the birders who fanned out over southern Carlisle on Sunday, December 30, had ideal conditions for the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count. But birds were generally hard to find, and several species almost always present were missing. This was the 35th consecutive year of the count in Carlisle and the 108th year in the U.S. Carlisle
Jean Keskulla watches her husband George Stalker put mealworms in the bird feeder. Stalker raises the worms throughout the year. (Photo by Ellen Huber)
south of Route 225, where the census took place, is at the northern edge of the 15-mile diameter Concord Christmas Count circle.

Only 37 species were seen, compared to 41 last year and the record 47 set in 2003. Total count of individuals was 1,944, compared to 2,266 last year and way below the record 2,925 set in 1984. No species new to the count were found, nor were any records broken. But nevertheless the 14 birders, aided by ten diligent feeder watchers, managed to record some interesting birds.

Carlisle specialties

Unique to Carlisle, the only Red-shouldered Hawk in the entire Concord Count circle was found by John Huehnergard and Jo Ann Hackett off Nowell Farme Road. Another bird that Carlisle had more of than any other town in the Concord Count circle was Pileated Woodpecker, with a total of five, one or two seen by about half the observers.

Other outstanding birds were three Great Horned Owls heard calling at Bartlett Farm and the Sachs Greenway by Leslie Thomas and Ken Harte at 5 a.m., along with an Eastern Screech Owl; two Northern Shrikes, off Russell and Prospect Streets; a Swamp Sparrow, the first since 1977, found by Huehnergard at the corner of Nowell Farme and River Roads; and finally two flocks of Common Redpolls, 18 at Cecile DeRouin's feeder on Estabrook Road and eight found by Don and Greg Southall off River Road, contributing to the record 393 in the Concord Count circle.

What's up?

Species that were either up or holding their own were nine Red-tailed Hawks, same as last year, but below the record 13 found in 2001; 21 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, compared with 15 last year, tied for the Carlisle record and contributing to the record 146 in the Concord Count circle; 33 American Crows, the highest count since 122 were found in 2000 (before the population crash apparently from West Nile virus); 96 American Robins, the highest count since a record 533 were found in 2002; and 92 House Finches, the highest count since 1994.

Where have they gone?

Expected but entirely missing from this year's count were Canada Goose (frozen out), Wild Turkey (seen the day before), Northern Flicker (also missed last year), Golden-crowned Kinglet (missed for the first time since 1991, but also way down throughout the Concord Count circle), and Cedar Waxwing (missed for the first time since 1995).

Some of the 30 turkeys who live on East Street were just out of the Christmas Bird Count area. Residents report that they frequently cross East Street just before St. Irene Church without checking traffic. Drivers beware! (Photo by Ellen Huber)
For many years, southern Carlisle has been divided into five sections, from the Acton line to the Concord River, and field observers spent most of the day tramping over the snow, covering their assigned section. The 14 observers were D'Ann and Tom Brownrigg, Eric and Margaret Darling, Susan Emmons, Jo Ann Hackett, Ken and Marilyn Harte, John Huehnergard, Elisabeth Sorrows, Don and Greg Southall, Steve Spang, and Leslie Thomas.

Accurate counts require patient and observant feeder-watchers, who record the highest number of each species seen at one time. Manning (and womanning) the feeders this year were John Baker, Cecile DeRouin, Don Emmons, Jean Keskulla, Betty Meehan, Nina Nielsen, Jan and Tom Raftery, George Stalker and Sylvia Willard.

2008 The Carlisle Mosquito