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.
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.
CW = species seen in count week, but not count day
HC = High Count
|Greater White-fronted Goose||7|
|American Black Duck||21|
|American Black Duck x Mallard||–|
|Domestic Mallard x Mallard||–|
|Greater Scaup||4 HC|
|Great Blue Heron||2|
|Bald Eagle||24 HC|
|Great Black-backed Gull||–|
|Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)||451|
|Great Horned Owl||1|
|Northern Saw-whet Owl||–|
|Yellow-bellied Sapsucker||4 HC|
|Carolina Wren||9 HC|
|Marsh Wren||3 HC|
|Eastern Bluebird||85 HC|
|American Tree Sparrow||70|
|Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Junco||–|
|Rusty Blackbird||1 HC|
Total Species 75
Total Individuals 22,702