2007 Fall Bird Count

However, most of the increase in Red-bellied Woodpecker has come after the decline of the Red-headed Woodpecker. And if you think the Hairy Woodpecker may be affected, know that Hairy Woodpecker was at record-high levels this year as well. The other woodpecker in record-high numbers was Pileated Woodpecker. Possibly there are many more dying trees in woodlots that are providing more food and potential nest sites. Possibly it is a function of increased count effort (party-hours) which I will discuss below. In any event it is good news, tempered by the fact that Red-headed Woodpecker has not been recorded on the fall count since 1999. Both Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks were record-high this year. It seems hard to believe, but in the first 10 years of the HFBC, Cooper’s Hawk was missed every other year and averaged two/count. Now, it is hard to imagine missing Cooper’s Hawk on a count and numbers in the past 10 years have averaged about 17/count. This species like many other raptor species has definitely increased in the last several years. It was good to see Pied-billed Grebe numbers at record-high levels this year, well above the previous high. Maybe this reflects stable populations for this wetland nester. Also encouraging were good numbers of both American Coot and Wilson’s Snipe, species which have exhibited much lower totals on recent counts.

The “big miss” for the count was American Woodcock which was missed for only the second time. Other misses include Ring-necked Pheasant, Field Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark, although all three of these species are declining and thus can no longer be considered as expected species. The local situation for Ruffed Grouse is still grim. Once again we recorded only one individual. If this species numbers are cyclical in the HSA, it has been at the bottom of the cycle for several years now. However, Wild Turkey numbers are still growing with another record-high count this year, about 100% higher than last years record-high count. No one can deny that the reintroduction of this magnificent species is a good-news story.

Shorebird diversity was the worst ever this year with only six species observed. This is kind of perplexing as apparently suitable habitat exists, as witnessed by the huge mudflats at Cootes Paradise, Mountsberg Reservoir and Rattray Marsh, and the mild weather this fall should have encouraged birds to linger. I guess it speaks to the decline in almost all shorebird species. Also warbler and sparrow diversity in 2007 was low and this, along with the poor shorebird showing, kept the 2007 count out of the 140s and well away from any kind of record. One observer thought that “a lot of birds left the week before [the count] due to the cool clear nights”.

This was the best year ever for raptor diversity. It really can’t get much better. There were 15 species observed, although I’m old school and include Turkey Vulture here. In two other years, 1991 & 2000, 14 species were observed. It was also the best year in several for finch diversity (six species). We had our first count record of Evening Grosbeak since 2001, an unprecedented drought, although this species has experienced a serious decline in the eastern half of the continent….