Results of Audubon Christmas Bird Count
For the City Times
STEVENS POINT — The Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held in Stevens Point on Saturday, Dec. 15, a nearly weather-perfect day. Volunteers tallied a respectable 49 species, about average for the past 10 years, but lower than the record 54 species recorded in 2012.
Although the weather was fair and mild, the best for a CBC in many years, birds were few in number and widely dispersed, and the predicted influx of winter finches had not occurred. Only 5441 individual birds were counted, well below the 10-year average, and far below the high count of 8106 in 2011.
The Stevens Point count area is a 15-mile diameter circle centered on Old Main on the UW-SP campus. Teams are assigned to specific sections of the circle for the greatest coverage possible.
Twenty-eight birders in eight field parties drove 417 miles by car and tramped 14 miles on foot to count every bird seen or heard in one 24-hour period. Four birders drove an extra 21 miles owling before daybreak, and eight others tallied birds at backyard feeding stations.
An exceptionally cold November and early freeze-up was followed by a mild spell in December a few days before the count. Still water in wetlands and sloughs remains frozen, but the Wisconsin and Plover Rivers were partly open and flowing briskly. From a chill 11 degrees at dawn on count day, the temperature soared to 41 degrees by mid-afternoon with a light southwest breeze. There was only an inch of old snow cover, and the wild food crop of weed seeds and berries, though only fair, was readily available. Boulevard trees in town bore ample fruit.
With so much open water, moderate numbers of Canada geese, mallards and other waterfowl lingered, including eight trumpeter swans and 19 common mergansers. Woodpeckers were present in good numbers with 34 red-bellied woodpeckers and 17 pileated . Red-headed woodpeckers, marginal in central Wisconsin, were found in three locations and set a new record at nine. American crows, however, continued to decline, numbering only 196 birds, the lowest count ever. There were no crossbills, only six common redpolls and thirteen pine siskins., and although reported in other parts of the state, there were no evening grosbeaks here.
Anticipation of unusual sightings was well rewarded as per-dawn birders were treated to the whinnied call of an eastern screech owl, not recorded since 2012. Another group spotted a great blue heron, seen previously only in 1976 and 2003, and at the Boston School Forest, birders found a hermit thrush, only the fourth appearance since 1969. The most exciting discovery , found in a brushy tangle along the Little Plover River, was a secretive winter wren, never recorded before on a Christmas Bird Count. This tiny bird swells the total number of species encountered since 1960 to 119.
Count totals are as follows (* indicates record): Canada goose, 624; trumpeter swan, 8; American black duck, 6; mallard, 852; common goldeneye, 262; common merganser, 19; wild turkey, 178; great blue heron, 1; bald eagle, 7; northern harrier, 2; sharp-shinned hawk, 1; red-tailed hawk, 19; rougyh-legged hawk, 1; rock pigeon, 518; mourning dove, 228; eastern screech owl, 1; great horned owl, 2; barred owl, 4; red-headed woodpecker, 9*; red-bellied woodpecker, 34; downy woodpecker, 73; hairy woodpecker, 38; northern flicker, 1; pileated woodpecker, 17; American kestrel, 1; northern shrike, 1; blue jay, 207; American crow, 196*; common raven, 8; black-capped chickadee, 498; tufted titmouse, 5; red-breasted nuthatch, 47; white-breasted nuthatch, 101; brown creeper, 6; winter wren, 1*; hermit thrush, 1; American robin, 9; European starling, 301; cedar waxwing, 15; snow bunting, 80; American tree sparrow, 160; dark-eyed junco, 248; northern cardinal, 119; house finch, 118; common redpoll, 6; pine siskin, 13; house sparrow, 212. Seen during count week but not on count day were a Cooper’s hawk and a belted kingfisher.
Volunteers included Konrad Chojnacki, Nancy Chojnacki, James Cook, Jean Deitrich, Amber Eschenbauch, Janet Eschenbauch, Bob Freckmann, Barb Gifford, Jim Gifford, Anne Graham, Ned Grossnickle, Kent Hall, Sue Hall, Alan Haney, Vince Heig, Jacob Hewitt, Gene Jacobs, Lorraine Jacobs, Gerry Janz, Maureen Janz, Katie Kozak, Susan Mapes-Martins, John McDonald, Joe Schultz, Jan Seiler, Dan Sivek, Stan Skutek, Janet Smith, Nancy Stevenson, Kay Underwood, Nancy Whitmire, Rob Whitmire, Herb Wievel, Bill Ziehr, Jill Ziehr and Brad Zinda.
Nancy Stevenson served as coordinator and compiler.
2018 marks the 59th year of participation in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count by Portage County Birders (1960-79) and Aldo Leopold Audubon Society (1980-2018). Nancy Whitmire has participated in all 59 counts.