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2013 Christmas Bird Count - Wrap Up

The Aspen area's Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) saw a great turnout of volunteers as well as help with ptarmigan observations from Highlands and Snowmass Ski Patrols.  In all, more than 22 people participated in count efforts during 'count week' (three days prior and after count day) and on the official count day, December 15, 2013.  This volunteer force included Elsie Weiss, age 8, as the youngest birder, with Wyatt Case and Anders Weiss, both age 10, adding more young blood to the group.  Thank you to all the volunteer birders for helping us gather important data and share in the fun and educational experience!

Mostly sunny skies, mostly frozen still and moving water, an extensive snowpack, and an unusually abundant wild food crop created great conditions for the bird census.  With fewer birds concentrated at birdfeeders, the main challenge was finding the birds across the landscape; birders relied on knowledge of habitats and winter bird behaviors as they searched the most likely places. Fifty two total species were tallied: 50 on count day, two additional species during count week. The most unusual species spotted was a first-year Common Loon at Hallam Lake, a migrating bird that was presumably forced to take to the ground here by stormy weather in early December. American Robin was the most numerous species (361), followed by Mallard Duck (326) and American Crow (208). American Robins seem to be more numerous than usual here for this time of year (361 compared to 1 last year) possibly due to the abundance of wild berries.  This food supply may also account for higher numbers of other species attracted by the excellent cone crop in the conifer forests and plentiful berries and acorns in the mountain shrublands.

The CBC on the whole, provides scientists and the public with data revealing trends in population dynamics spanning large chunks of time. It is always interesting to compare our local count results from year to year, and to take on the challenge of finding and counting the birds as CBC groups cover the various areas of our 'count circle,' a 15-mile diameter circle centering over the hills just south of Cozy Point Ranch where the four ski areas and the greatest amount of winter-accessible roads are included. While the warming climate is allowing more North American species to overwinter further north, other species normally dwelling in the far north have become more numerous and are thus spreading to the south in search of food.  See Audubon's account of unprecedented numbers of snowy owls being spotted far to the south of their normal winter range this year.

Next year, we hope to pull even more closet bird nerds into the effort, by promoting additional ways to participate, such as snowshoeing and ski touring to cover even more areas and habitats within the count circle. Nighttime owling is yet another CBC adventure we hope to include. Check in with ACES or Audubon's website next fall for details on the 115th CBC.  See you then!

Aspen CBC data | December 15, 2013

1
35
5
326
1
cw
4
24
1
3
6
4
1

Common Loon
Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Mallard
American Green-winged Teal
Ring-neck Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
Wilson's Snipe
  13
20
cw
2
2
1
4
1
5
52
19
4
106
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Northern Strike
Gray Jay
Stellar's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Clark's Nutcracker
Black-billed Magpie
  208
81
66
67
10
6
12
1
8
19
361
57
13
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Dipper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Mountain Bluebird
Townsend's Solitaire
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
  

3
2
32
56
3
43
92
24
19
30
101
cw

Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Rosy Finch sp.
Cassin's Finch
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow
Ptarmagin

cw - count week
sp - species

~ Rebecca Weiss, ACES Guest Naturalist