The ninth annual Ulster/Dutchess (NYUD) Christmas Bird Count was conducted on Saturday, December 28th. Conditions were favorable with temperatures ranging from a low of 30 degrees during pre-dawn owling to a very comfortable, sun-filled 47 degrees midday. There was absolutely no breeze throughout the day which did keep a veil of fog in locations along the river making viewing difficult until late morning. Black ice was reported in most sectors and the snow cover that was present had a slippery crust making early birding a bit treacherous. The Hudson River was open and mirror like while her main tributaries in the circle ran freely. Smaller bodies of water were frozen with shaded and protected areas still holding on to an inch or two of several week old snow.
45 birders in 13 field parties, plus two feeder watchers covered the circle’s ten sectors. These birders observed 79 species totaling 14,731 individual birds. The species total represented our second lowest ( 78 in 2013) and the individual count was the third lowest we’ve tallied. After nine years, the NYUD composite list stands at 128 species with no new additions this year. Through nine years we have averaged 85 species and 17,470 individuals on count day. Only one count week species was observed with an Eastern Phoebe on the Bard College Campus.
Highlights of this year’s count included Long-eared Owl, Blue-winged Teal, and Rusty Blackbirds in the Annandale-On-Hudson sector, Gray Catbird and Eastern Towhee in the West Saugerties sector, Northern Saw-whet Owl in the Kerley’s Corners sector, Purple Finches in the Rhinebeck sector, and a House Wren in the Kingston sector. An exciting phenomenon may have truly been the highlight of the day with to my recollection of Ulster-centered CBC’s, a first with three different sectors observing Red-headed Woodpeckers (2 in the West Saugerties sector, 2 in the Woodstock sector, and 1 in the Rhinebeck sector). Another unique occurrence were the 42 individual owls counted in five sectors with Kerley’s Corners leading the way with 16 birds and Annandale-On-Hudson with 14 birds.
Thirteen species set high counts this year including Red-bellied Woodpecker (54 seen in the Cheviot sector alone), 4 Common Loons and 12 of the 22 Swamp Sparrows observed in the Lake Katrine sector, and 160 Carolina Wrens (previous high was 102). Six species set new low counts this year including typically abundant species like Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and Dark-eyed Junco. American Crow numbers this year were a alarming quarter of their 1279 in 2016.
Thank you again this year to Steve Chorvas for his data input and spreadsheet wizardry and to all those NYUDers who brought food, attended, and helped with clean-up of our post count compilation in Kingston.
SAVE THE DATE FOR THE 10TH ANNUAL ULSTER/DUTCHESS(NYUD)CBC: SATURDAY, DECEMBER 26 2020
Wishing All a Healthy and Bird-filled New Year,