© 2018 Elena West

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Seven Swans a Swimming

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere, performed annually by volunteers and organized by the National Audubon Society. The purpose is to provide population data for use in science and avian conservation. The CBC is the longest-running citizen science survey in the world. Volunteer extraordinaire Jim Howitz participated in the 2019 Cedar Creek Christmas Bird Count and provided the following summary of the team's findings. Thanks, Jim!


First held in 1946, the annual Audubon Cedar Creek Bog Christmas Bird Count was held on December 15, 2019. The goal is to count all of the birds within a 15-mile diameter circle with the center of the circle at the Lawrence Laboratory building at Cedar Creek. Of course, we can never find all the birds, and this year the weather was uncooperative—the temperature at the start of the count was 6 degrees below zero and at the conclusion only 7 degrees above zero, although the snow depth of 15 inches was more of a hindrance than the cold. Twenty-seven hardy souls participated in the count this year. We recorded 2,826 individual birds from 36 different species, above the long-term averages of 1,672 individuals from 30 species (2018 was our best year with 49 species).


Red-headed Woodpecker during winter at Cedar Creek. Photo by Siah St. Clair.

This year the 566 Blue Jays and 98 Red-headed Woodpeckers smashed the previous records for these species, likely reflecting the abundant acorn production by northern pin oaks on site. The Cedar Creek Count generally finds more Red-headed Woodpeckers than any other in the state. Finches were scarce, with goldfinches the only northern finches recorded. We found the fewest waterfowl since 2014, reflecting the scarcity of open water, though Trumpeter Swans showed up for the fifth consecutive year.


Trumpeter Swans on Fish Lake, Cedar Creek. Photo by Jim Gindorff.

In the early years of the count, Ruffed Grouse were regularly recorded, pheasants rare, and Wild Turkeys nonexistent. Now, grouse are rare, pheasants regular, and turkeys abundant. In the early years, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and robins were absent. Now they are common, probably due in part to warmer winters. Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks have also become more common in recent years.


Thanks to all of the volunteers who participated in this year's count!