The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 15, 2010


Christmas Bird Count in Carlisle captures 34 species


Birdwatchers brave a blizzard on January 3. (Photo by Mollie McPhee Ho)

Fighting near-blizzard conditions, five (fool)hardy birders started out at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, January 3, from Leslie Thomas’ farmhouse on Prospect Street, hoping to hear some owls and get the 2009 Christmas Bird Count off to a flying start. Unfortunately, with the wind howling, the temperature at 15° and snow falling, all the owls in the area had the good sense to remain hunkered down and silent. After thawing out with coffee at Leslie’s, the would-be owlers, augmented by seven other birders who had the good sense to stay in bed until dawn, spread out over southern Carlisle in six parties for the 37th annual Count in Carlisle.

Carlisle, south of Route 225, is part of the 15-mile-diameter Concord Christmas Count circle, being counted for the 50th year. Christmas Bird Counts, which are now in their 110th year, were conducted during a two-week period from before Christmas until after New Year’s Day in over 2,000 such circles in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Struggling against wind, snow and cold until conditions improved somewhat in late morning, Carlisle’s Christmas counters managed to record 34 species. This compares with 38 last year. Not since 1984 has the species-count dropped below 34. Unlike last year, when three species new to the Carlisle count were found, there were no additions to the list, which has grown to a cumulative total of 82 species. Most notable were five Wild Turkeys found by Leslie Thomas and Tom Brownrigg at Asarkofs’ on River Road, and a wintering female Eastern Towhee at Marty Schafer’s feeder on Acton Street.

Ups and downs

The Carlisle count of 1,857 individuals was up from 1,707 last year, due mainly to unprecedented numbers of two species. The White-throated Sparrow count was 123 (previous high was 92 in 2000). And everywhere were Dark-eyed Juncos, with 648 counted (previous high was 457 in 2000). But the parallels with the count nine years ago went beyond these two species. Lowest numbers since 2000 were found for Downy Woodpecker (50), Black-capped Chickadee (152), White-breasted Nuthatch (56), Carolina Wren (8), and Eastern Bluebird (7). Also way down this year were Mourning Dove (45), Tufted Titmouse (97), and American Goldfinch (102). Finally, with low counts not seen since 1975, were 2 Northern Mockingbirds and 21 House Sparrows.

Completely missing this year were owls, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Cedar Waxwing. Also missing, but recorded during “count week,” were a Cooper’s Hawk found by Leslie Thomas off Prospect Street and a Common Raven seen and heard by Margaret Darling off West Street.

On the up side, there were good counts of 156 Blue Jays (95 last year), and 170 American Robins (51 last year). The count of 10 Brown Creepers, half of them found by Alan Ankers and Margaret Read at the Towle Land and vicinity, was the highest since 1993 and the most of any town in the Concord Count circle. Also with the highest count of any town in the circle were three Pileated Woodpeckers, all on the eastern side of town.

The team

Field observers this year were Alan Ankers, D’Ann and Tom Brownrigg, Eric and Margaret Darling, Susan Emmons, Ken Harte (Carlisle compiler), Margaret Read, Elisabeth Sorrows, Don Southall, Steve Spang and Leslie Thomas.

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 Kay Fairweather, Marilyn Harte, Helen and Roy Herold, Jean Keskulla, Betty Meehan, Nina Nielsen, Marty Schafer, George Stalker and Sylvia Willard. ∆

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito