Oak Orchard Christmas Bird Count 2021

Winter Wren – photo by Don Bemont

On December 28, 2021, 30 volunteers participated in the 54th annual Oak Orchard Swamp Christmas Bird Count. The National Audubon Society, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, sponsor the Christmas Bird Counts annually throughout the country and beyond in the Americas. Each count consists of a tally of all birds seen within a fifteen-mile diameter circle on one day that falls within a 15- day period at the end of December and the beginning of January. Audubon Christmas Counts have been taking place for 119 years and provide valuable information on the range expansion or narrowing of wintering bird populations.

The center for the Oak Orchard count is the point at which the Genesee-Orleans County line crosses Route 63. The 15-mile diameter circle includes the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Orchard and Tonawanda State Wildlife Management Areas, the Tonawanda Native American Reservation, the Townships of Alabama and Shelby, the villages of Indian Falls, Medina and Wolcottsville and portions ofMiddleport and Oakfield.

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Count hours were about average for late December, with a low of 31F and high of 37F. Both morning and afternoon were essentially precipitation free with a gusty morning, with wind conditions improving after noon. Still water was frozen and moving water fully open along Oak Orchard Creek. The Erie Canal provided some open water.

Our observers were afield in nineteen parties from 6:00 AM until 5:45 PM, and in 99 total hours covered 36 miles on foot and 425 miles by car. Participants also clocked 7 nocturnal hours and 42 miles searching for owls. In total, these observers tallied 75 species. 22,832 individual birds were counted. Due to mild conditions before the count date, some waterfowl had not left the region. With little snow on the ground, participants reported that birds were difficult to see in fields and were not present at the roadsides. A small number of irruptive species (those that visit in winter from the boreal forest when cone crops there are low) were noted this year, including Red-breasted Nuthatch and Common Redpoll.

Two notable highest counts were 24 Bald Eagles and 85 Eastern Bluebirds. Those numbers reflect the hard work undertaken by federal and state entities and citizen’s groups to bring those species back from their downward spiraling numbers. Also found lingering in the count area in highest ever count numbers were four Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, four Greater Scaup, three Marsh Wrens, nine Carolina Wrens and one Rusty Blackbird. There were no ‘new to the count’ species this year.

A special thanks to the NYS DEC and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge staff who volunteered to report birds while on duty and conducted a winter raptor survey on count afternoon. Many thanks go out to everyone who participated! We rely on volunteer support every year to continue this important tradition. A list of species follows.

Celeste Morien

Count Compiler

CW = species seen in count week, but not count day
HC = High Count

Mute Swan4
Tundra Swan25
Trumpeter Swan
Greater White-fronted Goose7
Snow Goose
Ross’s Goose
Cackling Goose5
Canada Goose7743
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
American Black Duck21
American Black Duck x Mallard
Domestic Mallard x Mallard
Northern Shoveler1
Northern Pintail
Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup4 HC
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye4
Hooded Merganser1
Common Merganser13
Red-breasted Merganser
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey24
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron2
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Bald Eagle24 HC
Northern Harrier14
Sharp-shinned Hawk2
Cooper’s Hawk8
Northern Goshawk
Accipiter sp.1
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk78
Rough-legged Hawk
American Kestrel8
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Sandhill Crane2
Wilson’s Snipe
Ring-billed Gull34
Herring Gull21
Great Black-backed Gull
Bonaparte’s Gull
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)451
Mourning Dove138
Eastern Screech-Owl5
Great Horned Owl1
Snowy Owl
Barred Owl1
Long-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl2
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Belted Kingfisher4
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker62
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker4 HC
Downy Woodpecker105
Hairy Woodpecker29
Northern Flicker52
Pileated Woodpecker8
Eastern Phoebe
Northern Shrike3
Blue Jay174
American Crow220
Common Raven2
Horned Lark10
Black-capped Chickadee319
Tufted Titmouse27
Red-breasted Nuthatch8
White-breasted Nuthatch93
Brown Creeper10
Carolina Wren9 HC
Winter Wren2
Marsh Wren3 HC
Wren sp.
Golden-crowned Kinglet10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird85 HC
Hermit Thrush
American Robin259
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird3
European Starling10464
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing3
Yellow-rumped Warbler11
Common Yellowthroat
American Tree Sparrow70
Chipping Sparrow1
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow13
Swamp Sparrow1
White-throated Sparrow50
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco363
Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Junco
Lapland Longspur
Snow Bunting3
Northern Cardinal103
Red-winged Blackbird81
Eastern Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird1 HC
Brewer’s Blackbird
Common Grackle4
Brown-headed Cowbird244
Pine Grosbeak
Purple Finch
House Finch57
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll3
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch172
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow763
Blackbird sp.49

Total Species 75
Total Individuals 22,702