The Gloucester County Christmas Bird Count of 2020 was very successful. Despite having Coronavirus stacked up against us, many of the participants enjoyed getting outdoors safely to conduct the count. There were 48 field participants and 7 feeder watchers this year. Altogether we saw (and heard) 96 species of birds in the circle. This is a very good accounting for this count circle. All areas were covered. A specil thank you goes out to Marilyn Henry and Scott Reynolds, who graciously opted to shift some responsibilities to make sure all 13 areas were covered. Thanks again. For those of you unable to attend this year, we hope to see you again next year. We will be holding your spot.
Each year is different. Some species replace others, yet we don't normally expect this to happen. Somehow it averages out the count and we typically wind up in the 85-95 count in species. Each year it seems like we get unexpected misses like: Snow Goose (who would have thought?), Eastern Meadowlark (however numbers have been low over the last decade plus) Wood Duck and then there are the game birds - Bobwhite and Ring-Necked Pheasant. There probably are 10 or so unlikely misses and 15 or so very likely miss. Add those all up and we would be closer to 120 species on the count. We could only dream (especially the compiler). The However it is always best to have a true sense of what is out there and there is nothing more true than the years of compiled info.
Which brings me to a brief note and how our counting and compiling bears out the facts. As most know, the House Finch was introduced in the east from the west. The first recorded House Finches on a Gloucester Count were in 1961 - 8 birds. As the years progressed, numbers of House Finches jumped. By the late 70's and early-to-mid 80's, the quantities on the count jumped to the 1000's and 2000's, more equal to what we get in counts of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows nowadays. Interestingly the House Finch count this year was 150 birds! Their numbers have certainly peaked. I think the eye disease they get and Cooper's Hawks have played a major part in their decline. Without the hard work of many people we would only be guessing at this info.
There were a few observations worth noting as well. Firstly the fact that no one saw Snow Geese. There were some in the eastern part of the county and in Salem County, but outside of the count circle. Duck species were typical but there were a few marginal species missed. just be his meals. Bald Eagles were seen at a record highs - 36. Compilers (previous) Will Middleton and Bob Cassel would likely have scoffed if told back in the 80's that we would be seeing 36 Bald Eagles in the year 2020! Alison Derenberger in our group picked out a small flock of 10 Snipe in the meadows along Oldman's Creek. Thanks to those who looked for owls too. Great Horned Owls outdistanced Screech Owls this year! 3 Merlins was a count high this year. Hairy Woodpecker and Eastern Phoebes were record highs too, 28 and 3 respectively. Another record high was the 21 Hermit Thrush. In the sparrow world we had two other record highs - Savannah Sparrow at 107 (86 seen by one party) primarily viewed on edges and in asparagus fields)!and White-throated Sparrows 2512; kind of surprising because that species has seemed to be declining recently in our results.
"Out of the ordinary" or "write-ins" included the following:
Common Yellowthroat seen by Jack Mahon and Jerry Haag.
Black Scoter picked up by Scott Henderson, Barb Bassett, Jeff Holt, and Jayne Rhynard.
Common Loon by Lloyd Shaw and Gary Lizzi.
Sandhill Crane - viewed by Cathy and Betsy Carter. Only the second time for Sandhill Crane; first time seen by the Strohmeiers and the Hennings. The Carters had five birds.
The Black Scoter was a new variety to the count.
Should anyone want a full listing of the results, merely send me an email or note, and I will forward the info to you either by email or by mail. Again much obliged to all you participants. Hopefully you found it to be a rewarding experience. Hopefully next year will allow us to go eat at full tilt once again. Don't forget to research the results on the Audubon website. If you need help figuring it out just give me a holler. There is some very interesting data to be found. I believe all of our records are on there since the first count. Be safe! Save the date - December 18, 2021 is our next count.
Ron Kegel, compiler
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