[Ontbirds] Winchester Winter Bird Count

mark gawn gawnbirding at hotmail.com
Mon Feb 15 19:16:01 EST 2016

Fourteen birders in six parties braved Neptune-like temperatures of -30C on Sunday for the second running of this count. The count follows Christmas Count protocols and is timed to coincide with the GBBS. The region is largely a vast artificial prairie with a few small towns and wooded areas; perfect for open country winter birding. This year we found 49 species, far better than last year's 35, reflecting the fact that, while cold, there was little wind. The total count came in at a little over six thousand, almost double that for the previous year.

At 1,927 the most abundant bird was Snow Bunting, followed by European Starling (752) and American Crow (731). Accompanying the Snow Buntings were good numbers of Horned Lark (127) and a few Lapland Longspurs (6). The good showing of these field species reflects relatively low snow depths.

New to the count were waterfowl (Canada Goose and Mallard) and gulls, with three species including Iceland at the Winchester Dump. Snowy Owls, while down from last year's dozen, showed well, with five seen. Raptors in general were well represented with 20 Red-tails, 5 Rough-legs, 3 Merlins and 2 Cooper's.  Several of the Red-tails were local breeders, already paired off. Good numbers of purple finch were indicative of a mid winter surge of this species. Only one House finch was seen, but House Sparrows were in good supply. One flock of redpolls was found, but unlike last year there were no Hoarys.

Bird of the count was a chilly Chipping Sparrow, other goodies were a single Northern Harrier and Bald Eagle, two Song Sparrows, a White-throated Sparrow and a continuing pair of Red-bellied Woodpecker (first found on last year's count). Icteriids also figured in the tally, with two Common Grackles at one site and a cowbird at another. Four Golden-crowned Kinglets, the result of a visit to a previously unknown bog, were a surprise. Berry eaters were restricted to a handful of waxwings (both species) and only two American Robins.

All data has been logged on e-bird by the respective teams. 

P.S. A visit to the Chipping Sparrow site the following day turned up a sparrow bonanza; in addition to the Chipping Sparrow, both a Savannah and a White-crowned were present.

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