The 35th annual Albany County Christmas Bird Count took place on Sunday, December 20. A 30” snowfall from a few days earlier was still on the ground, preventing our counters from walking some of their usual areas, but also driving small birds to the road edges to feed. The need for social distancing caused the count circle to be split into 12 sectors, rather than the usual 8. The species total for the day was 72, just over the average of 71.
Two new species were officially added to the count: a lone savannah sparrow and a group of 14 red crossbills. One more new species was present, but not found by one of our participants. A snowy owl was photographed at the Selkirk Train Yard that day and we learned of it the day after. How to handle this bird will be taken up with the CBC officials.
As always, some species were found in significantly higher numbers relative to the long-term averages, and some were relatively scarce. Highest-ever numbers were recorded for a surprising number of species: ring-necked duck at 520, Cooper’s hawk with 11, merlin with 2, mourning dove at 534, yellow-bellied sapsucker at 11 (previous high was 7), tufted titmouse at 176, red-breasted nuthatch at 102 (previous high was 32 in 1997, we had 1 last year), white-breasted nuthatch at 150, Carolina wren at 40, fox sparrow with 5, song sparrow with 132, white-throated sparrow more than doubled their previous high at 512, dark-eyed juncos were found at four times the previous high at 4129, northern cardinal more than double their previous numbers at 310. Brown creeper tied its best year at 13.
Found in notably higher numbers were: black vulture in its third year of good numbers at 43, American tree sparrow at 200, and blue jays were found in their second highest number ever at 420.
Other good finds included: 1 mute swan, 1 northern shoveler, 1 northern pintail, 1 eastern phoebe, 1 hermit thrush, 2 swamp sparrows, and 70 common redpolls.
Species missed on that day included sharp shinned hawk, ruffed grouse, and golden-crowned kinglet. Gulls were scarce - ring-billed was the only species found.
What caused so many species to be found in higher numbers? Much of this effect might be explained by the dividing up of sectors of the circle. We had more birding parties afield, even though each party was just one person, or in some cases two family members. It is hard to say how this effects final results, though. I’m sure that many birds in my sector were missed because I did not have the usual two excellent birders with me. Whatever the cause, we had a very good count. Thanks go out to all the dedicated participants!