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On June 12 and 13, the 14th Annual Northumberland Summer Bird Count was held. Thirty-seven observers covered the same count circle used in previous years. The 24 km diameter circle covers from Rice Lake and Roseneath in the north to Hwy. 401 just north of Grafton in the south, and Harwood Rd. in the west to almost Morganston in the east.

The coverage of the circle was as folows:

  • Area 1 (NW section): John Geale, Bruce Parker, Allyson Parker, Carole Payne, Simone Merey, Anne Tesluk, Elizabeth Kellogg, Dave Shirley
  • Area 2 (NE Section): Bryan Baxter, Louise Baxter, Russell Lake, Brad Sherwin, Maureen Riggs, Martha Robinson, Barbara Frei, Sophie Gibbs, Veronica Aponte
  • Area 3 (W-central Section): Louise Schmidt, Ted Schmidt, Deb Panko, Patrick Hubert, Kristina Hubert, Karen Drew
  • Area 4 (E-central Section): Roger Frost, Elizabeth Kellogg, Doug McRae, Sarah Petrasek
  • Area 5 (SW Section): Clive Goodwin, Joy Goodwin, Lori Wensley, Bill Wensley, Audrey Wilson
  • Area 6 (SE Section): Margaret Bain, Richard Pope, Rayfield Pye, Janette Johnston

The weather was not very cooperative. Saturday was almost a complete washout, with low clouds and rain much of the day. The dark, wet conditions kept bird activity to a minimum. Sunday was a dryer and somewhat brighter day, with some clearing in the afternoon. Despite the awful weather, a total of 15,510 birds of 138 species was counted. Both these totals were down somewhat from last year, but both were still well above average. For the second year in a row, no new species were added to the all time list, which still stands at 177 species.

Water birds provided a few highlights. Area 6 recorded the only Pied-billed Grebe and Least Bittern. A record six American Bitterns were seen, half of these by John Geale who again canoed the Rice Lake marshes. Two flyover American Bitterns in Area 4 were very unusual. Area 2 found the only Great Egret. Raptors were generally seen in low numbers. The 5 Osprey in Area 1 were the lowest total in 10 years. The 13 Red-tailed Hawks were the lowest total since 1999. The rainy weather no doubt had an impact on these low numbers. On the positive side, Area 4 found the first Northern Goshawk since 2004. Area 4 also reported the only Broad-winged (5) and Red-shouldered (1) Hawks.

Area 5 found the first Ring-necked Pheasant in 3 years. Ruffed Grouse numbers remained low, with only 12 counted. Area 6 continued its marsh bird dominance with the only Sora and Common Moorhen. Areas 1 and 5 had the only Spotted Sandpipers. Area 1 had all of the 3 Upland Sandpipers. Three groups found American Woodcock, but none found Wilson’s Snipe. Ring-billed Gull was again the most numerous species, with 1,850 counted. Four groups found a total of 7 Herring Gulls. Area 1 recorded the only Caspian Tern. Rock Pigeons rebounded a bit from last year’s record low with 97 counted. Either that, or with so few other birds around this year, observers actually took time to count them.

After last year’s huge numbers of cuckoos, this year’s total of 3 Black-billed was much more typical. Dave Shirley had a record owl night in Area 1, with 9 Eastern Screech Owls, 1 Great Horned Owl and 1 Long-eared Owl! Area 4 had all of the four Barred Owls seen. Single Common Nighthawks were seen in 3 areas. A total of 12 Whip-poor-wills were recorded in Areas 3 and 4. This is the lowest Whip-poor-will total in 6 years. The Red-headed Woodpecker team in Area 1 found the only 2 Redheaded Wood-peckers. An amazing 7 Red-bellied Woodpeckers were reported by four groups, as this species continues to expand into the county. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was also counted in record high numbers with a total of 35.

Most flycatcher species were reported in lower numbers than in the previous few years. Only Yellow-bellied Flycatcher posted a record high of 3 birds in Areas 4 and 6. All the swallow species were counted in lower than average numbers. The nine Northern Rough-winged Swallows were the lowest total in 10 years. The 24 Cliff Swallows were the lowest number since 2004.

Common Ravens are spreading out with all areas reporting them for a total of 11 birds. Red-breasted Nuthatches were found in the lowest numbers in 4 years. Likely this was due to the scarcity of conifer seed this year. Wrens had mixed results. Area 3 reported the first Carolina Wren since 2006. The House Wren population continues to increase with a new record high count of 192. Marsh Wrens had their lowest total since 2003, with 2 in Area 6. Area 6 had the only 3 Golden-crowned Kinglets. Area 5 found only the second ever Swainson’s Thrush. Cedar Waxwings seemed more common than usual this year, with 316 counted, the highest since 2004.

Vireo numbers were down from the high counts of recent years. The 369 Red-eyed Vireo was the lowest total since 2006. No wonder woods seemed quiet. Most warblers were counted in lower numbers than in recent years. The cloudy/rainy weather had a large impact on their singing behavior. Blue-winged Warblers were found in Areas 2 and 4 for a total of 4. Golden-winged Warblers were in Areas 1 and 4 again for a total of 4 birds. Two “Brewster’s” Warblers hybrids were seen in Areas 3 and 4. Three groups recorded a good total of 7 Magnolia Warblers. The 32 Black-and-white Warblers were the lowest total since 2004. The five Canada Warblers were the lowest since 1997. Sparrow numbers were also somewhat lower than in recent years. The exception was White-throated Sparrow. The 35 counted this year was the highest total since 2001. Areas 2 and 6 found the only 3 Clay-colored Spar-rows. Area 4 had the only Dark-eyed Junco.

Most Icterid species were reported in average or above average numbers. The 109 Brown-headed Cowbirds however, were the lowest total in the last 5 years. Area 1 produced the only Orchard Oriole. Most common finches were found in above average numbers. The 15 House Finches were the highest total in 3 years. House Sparrow numbers were below average again, but still better than the 25 counted two years ago. This year, 57 were recorded.

The rainy weather affected the numbers of most species this year. This was offset a bit by more observers, as well as more effort by those observers. The post count get-together on Sunday afternoon was not very well attended, partly because some people were still in the field taking advantage of the only good weather of the weekend. If it had not been for this extra effort, many species would have been recorded in record low numbers. Rain or shine, the Area 6 team of Margaret Bain, Richard Pope and Rayfield Pye are hard to beat. This year they “only” found 110 species, which was good enough for top spot. This was followed by the Area 4 team with 107, and the Area 1 team with 106. This year’s coolest mammal award goes to the Area 1 team, which found a Black Bear. Thanks to all who participated, especially the area captains who again did excellent jobs coordinating their teams and completing the paperwork. Next year’s count will be June 4 and 5 2011.

............ Roger Frost

To view a summary of the 2010 Summer Bird Count in pdf iconPDF format. - Click here.