Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Backyard Winter Bird Survey this weekend

STACEY COLE February 07. 2014 10:26PM

Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 8 and 9, New Hampshire Audubon (NHA) will be conducting its Annual Backyard Winter Bird Survey that also includes red and gray squirrels.

Participants should watch and record the number and species of every bird and squirrel seen on or about their property as well as the time spent observing during the two days. At each time period record only the maximum number of each species. Do not add the totals. If so, you probably will have counted the same bird or squirrel one or more times. To avoid this problem, your final report should include only the greatest number of a species seen at one time. Please record only the species that you can identify. It is also important to remember that even if you do not see any birds or squirrels, mark the survey card accordingly.

When forwarding your results of this year's survey, NHA will find it very helpful if you will use its official reporting form. If you have not received one by mail a copy of the form is immediately available by computer. The NHA website is:

The following information was gleaned from NH Audubon Senior Conservation Biologist Dr. Pamela Hunt's description of the 2013 survey results. Excerpts taken from that report follow:

"The winter of 2012-2013 was another warm one with above average temperatures in all three months. Several significant snow storms came through in February, and while most of the precipitation fell to the south of N.H., it was snowing somewhere in N.H. on 17 of the month's 28 days, including the weekend of the Backyard Winter Survey (BWBS).

"Certainly such weather can put the damper on bird activity, or conversely result in a flurry of visits, and as such it remains important for participants to keep watching. And watch you did; 1,369 of you spent over 4,500 hours over the weekend. You all managed to find 76 species, the third highest total in the project's history."

Dr. Hunt offers some broad overviews: "One of the more noteworthy birds was the varied thrush. Depending on your field guide, varied thrush might not appear at all, or maybe shows as an inset head shot next to American robin. This is a bird of the Pacific Northwest and only wanders eastward in very small numbers, although there's usually one somewhere in New England during the winter. The winter of 2012-13 was exceptional in that there were at least 13 varied thrush in New England, 7 of which were in N.H. scattered from Nashua north to Bartlett from early January well into spring. A word on American robins and eastern bluebirds is in order.

"The former were somewhat scarce in the 2013 survey compared to recent years (lowest since 2001), while the latter hit yet another record high. Clearly there was fruit about that the bluebirds were eating, so why were there fewer robins (which eat the same fruit), and where did they go? We can't always answer these questions, but with the BWBS data we can see the patterns that generate the interesting questions in the first place! Hermit thrush also had a new high of four, and of the 12 records for the BWBS, half have been in the last eight years. (The BWBS has been going on for 27 years).

Hermit thrush may become increasingly common in winter."

Now for a summary of individual bird counts from the 2013 BWBS: black-capped chickadee 7,398; common redpoll 6,263; mourning dove 5,842; dark-eyed junco 5,690; American blue jay 3,821; American goldfinch 3,272; tufted titmouse 2,963; northern cardinal 2,176; American crow 2,136; red-breasted nuthatch 2,026; white-breasted nuthatch 2,012; house sparrow 1,943; European starling 1,927; downy woodpecker 1,900; hairy woodpecker 1297; American tree sparrow 1,267; house finch 927; wild turkey 900; American robin 861; eastern bluebird 785; rock pigeon 596; red-bellied woodpecker 404; pine siskin 393; white-throated sparrow 310; herring gull 310; purple finch 305; mallard duck 199; evening grosbeak 155; Carolina wren 147; Canada goose 137; brown creeper 119; common raven 92; cedar waxwing 74; northern mockingbird 66; pine grosbeak 61; pileated woodpecker 58; song sparrow 50; sharp-shinned hawk 47; brown-headed cowbird 42; black duck 39; northern flicker 39; red-tailed hawk 36; snow bunting 29; common merganser 28; great black-backed gull 23; bald eagle 19; Bohemian waxwing 17; red-winged blackbird 12; barred owl 12; red crossbill 12; ruffed grouse 12; chipping sparrow 9; red-headed woodpecker 7; common grackle 6; yellow-bellied sapsucker 6; remainder of the 76 species, 5 or less.

Gray squirrels 2,330, red squirrels 942 .

For further information contact N.H. Audubon, 84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, 03301-8200. Contributions welcome. Thanks to our readers who participate in this important survey.

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.

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