2012-01-12 / News

Islanders spot 74 soaring species in annual bird count

This juvenile red-tailed hawk was among the many birds tallied during the annual winter island bird count that was held on Saturday. Seven red-tailed hawks were spotted during the day. 
PHOTO BY JEFF MCDONOUGH This juvenile red-tailed hawk was among the many birds tallied during the annual winter island bird count that was held on Saturday. Seven red-tailed hawks were spotted during the day. PHOTO BY JEFF MCDONOUGH The 29th annual Conanicut Island Christmas Bird Count was held on Jan. 7, and a record number of participants spotted a total of 74 species, which was considerably more than in past years, and just two short of last year’s record.

This year’s event had 24 field participants and another four reporting from their homes. “[It was a] glorious sunny day, with temperatures in the 50s and virtually no wind,” said organizer Candy Powell.

According to Powell, the most notable species were the pair of Barrow’s goldeneyes seen off the north end in the West Passage, a winter wren seen along North Road, an American coot seen at South Pond, and an “amazing display of thousands of Northern gannets flying and feeding in the waters off Beavertail.”

Also of note was a great egret seen at Marsh Meadows, a bird that should have migrated south weeks ago. Other exciting species were razorbills at Beavertail, piedbilled grebes at the North Reservoir, and an American woodcock at Hodgkiss Farm.

The most abundant species were the Northern gannet (1,663), common eider (228), black scoter (226), Canada goose (402), European starling (537) and herring bull (344).

“We tallied 70 species by noon but later the previously reported snow goose was determined to be a probable barnyard goose from a neighboring farm, and the probable cackling goose reported at North Reservoir could not be positively identified,” said Powell. She added that they are still studying photos, but the bill and overall bird size do not seem small enough to be called a cackling, which brought the total down to 68.

But in the afternoon, Wayne Munns found the pied-billed grebe and the Northern harrier, B.J. Whitehouse located the screech owl, Marcie Lindsay heard a great horned owl hooting, Gail Chase had two red-winged blackbirds at her feeder at Hodgkiss Farm, and Martha Neale heard an American woodcock, also at Hodgkiss Farm.

Other field observers were Evelyn Rhodes, Ed Long, Bill Levin, Laurie Martin, Barry Murphy, Barrett Marlan, George Macaruso, Bruce Foresman, Dick Graefe, Elaine Peterson, George Souza, Rey Larsen, Ian Owen, Linda Gardrel, Gloria Dahl, Dick Boenning, Barbara Sherman, Chris Ariel, Peter Fay and Chris and Candy Powell. Reporting from home were Chase, Neale, Bert Lippincott and Kim McDonough.

Gardrel was awarded the coveted traveling “Pink Flamingo” for her sighting of the coot, which she will inscribe with the record of her sighting, and keep until she brings it back to the spring bird count, when it will be awarded to another special birder.

The 74 species were: red-throated loon, 16; common loon, 21; pied-billed grebe, 3; horned grebe, 2; red-necked grebe, 5; Northern gannet, 1,663; doubled crested cormorant, 3; great blue heron, 3; great egret, 1; mute swan, 3; brant, 15; Canada goose, 402; American black duck, 68; mallard, 118; common eider, 228; harlequin duck, 31; black scoter, 226; white-winged scoter, 2; and surf scoter, 59.

Also, common goldeneye, 77; Barrow’s goldeneye, 2; bufflehead, 46; hooded merganser, 3; red-breasted merganser, 48; turkey vulture, 2; northern harrier, 1; sharp-shinned hawk, 1; Cooper’s hawk, 3; red-tailed hawk, 7; American kestrel, 2; American coot, 1; purple sandpiper, 23; American woodcock, 1; Bonaparte’s gull, 8; ring-billed gull, 13; herring gull, 344; greater black back gull, 32; and razorbill, 2.

Also, rock pigeon, 2; mourning dove, 23; Eastern screech owl, 1; great horned owl, 1; red-bellied woodpecker, 4; downy woodpecker, 12; Northern flicker, 3; blue jay, 34; American crow, 113; blackcapped chickadee, 109; tufted titmouse, 40; white-breasted nuthatch, 6; Carolina wren, 26; winter wren, 1; golden-crowned kinglet, 1; American robin, 126; gray catbird, 3; Northern mockingbird, 23; brown thrasher, 1; starling, 537; and cedar waxwing, 16.

Also, yellow-rumped warbler, 5; Northern cardinal, 34; Eastern towhee, 3; song sparrow, 26; fox sparrow, 3; swamp sparrow, 3; white-throated sparrow, 48; whitecrowned sparrow, 1; dark-eyed junco, 5; red-winged blackbird, 2; common grackle, 1; purple finch, 1; house finch, 35; American goldfi nch, 8; and house sparrow, 68.

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