Downy Woodpecker - photo by Fran Morel

Downy Woodpecker - photo by Fran Morel

The 67th Lisle-Arboretum Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, 20 December 2015. There was only a brief freeze in the weeks prior to count day, so that we had a lot of hope for a good count. The 90 field observers and nine feeder watchers also had reasonably warm weather to work with, without any snow on the ground. Despite this, most field parties bemoaned the lack of birds. They talked about long stretches with little to see. When everyone gathered for the count dinner, enthusiasm for a potential record total was quite limited. However, when the results were tallied, we had for the second straight year broken the record species total. This year’s count reached 90 species, besting last year’s tally of 89 by one, which in turn had broken the 2013 count total of 88 species by one. No additional species were added during the count week.

Contributing to our being able to set a record number of species, there were no “big misses.” We tallied all the Code 1 and Code 2 species. We recorded 32 of the 40 Code 3 birds, which is a good hit ratio. Code 1 birds are seen in each of the six areas of the count circle every year. Code 2 are recorded in almost every year, usually in three or more of the six areas. Code 3 birds, though, may be recorded in as few as one out of every four years, so that finding more than 75% of them is an achievement. With just the Code 1, 2, and 3 species, the count was at 76, which is a pretty good tally. Indeed, it would have been a record high count in 1992. Adding 14 unusual species to this total brought us to the record-setting 90 species.

Best among the 90 species was the Ross’s Goose found by Leo Miler and Bob Morgan. It’s a new species for the count! Record high counts of individuals were recorded for Bald Eagle and Eastern Bluebird. We had 17 Bald Eagles; the previous high count was 10 recorded in 2013. This year’s total of an even 100 Eastern Bluebirds broke the old record of 89 set in 2010. Species for which we tied the record high counts were Trumpeter Swan, Virginia Rail, Pileated Woodpecker, and Eastern Phoebe. We had three of the swans, matching the same from 2012. Our five Pileated Woodpeckers matched the record set in 2011. We recorded one each of Virginia Rail and Eastern Phoebe. We’ve never recorded more than one of these, with Virginia Rails being seen previously on the 1975, 2005, and 2011 counts, and Eastern Phoebes on the 1991, 2001, and 2002 counts. Other notable high counts were 284 Sandhill Cranes (compared to the 15 year average of 103 and a record high of 1376) and 308 White-breasted Nuthatches (15 year average of 203 and record high of 336).

On the low side, there were only four Northern Flickers. We average 25 of this species. Also, we had just 958 American Robins, compared to the recent average of 2056, and the 266 Cedar Waxwings were low compared to the 15 year average of 553. Also low were counts of seven Yellow-rumped Warblers (26 is the average) and 53 White-throated Sparrows (154 is the average).

Credit for the count’s success is due in large part to the area leaders: Bob Dolgan, Bob Fisher, Carl Giometti, Jill Niland, Jenny Vogt, and Ken Wysocki. Their work is essential to all aspects of the CBC. And extra special thanks to Christine Williamson for arranging the countdown dinner at a new location and supervising its smooth execution.

- Post contributed by Christine Williamson