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Cheyenne Bottoms reports on Christmas Bird Count
Geese, blackbirds most common early winter species
bird count blackbird pic.jpg
A cloud of blackbirds is shown in this undated winter photo by Dan Witt. The Red-Winged Blackbird was the most-seen species during the Christmas Bird Count at Cheyenne Bottoms; 20,995 were counted. - photo by Dan Witt

On a clear, sunny day last December, 21 volunteers met at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center and headed to Cheyenne Bottoms to count birds. The KWEC has released the results of the 2018 Christmas Bird Count, conducted Dec. 17, 2018.

“We had pretty nice weather that day and a good number of participants,” said Curtis Wolf, KWEC director.

The temperature was 30 degrees Fahrenheit when the group formed seven parties at 8 a.m. During the day, it became as warm as 56 degrees. The bird count continued until 4 p.m. Volunteers counted thousands of geese and red-winged blackbirds.

Wolf said the  total count of 55,578 birds was quite low, but the number of species counted, 81, was “pretty average.” The total number of individual birds reported varies pretty widely from year to year.

“Over the last 10 years, our average number of species documented at our count has been 82 species, so we are right there. Over that time we’ve had as many as 93 species and as few as 68,” he said.

“We did not have nearly as many geese or blackbirds observed this year. In past years, we’ve reported as many as 4 million blackbirds and more than 150,000 geese during our count day, and this year we only reported about 20,000 blackbirds and 22,000 geese. This variability is not a huge alarm, as the numbers of these birds definitely vary depending on many factors, including weather, water availability, etc. However, this is the type of information the Christmas Bird Counts, as a whole, are trying to document. The compiled Christmas Bird Counts are used by scientists to document trends in bird populations,” Wolf said.

Field notes

Wolf reported the following observations for the 2018 CBC:

• Goose numbers (including Snow geese, Ross’s geese, Canada geese, Cackling geese and Greater white-fronted geese) were relatively low

• Duck species and numbers were pretty average (however, two species showed much higher than normal counts for our CBC: Common Goldeneye - 161 and Common Mergansers - 397)

• Raptor species — Hawks, Falcons, and Owls — (12 species total) were overall good — Northern harrier numbers (98) and Red-tailed hawk numbers (75) were consistent with high number trends for the past 10 years; however we did miss Ferruginous hawks this year which we have most years.

• Red-breasted nuthatch (13 observed) is an all-time high count for our count. This species has been reported abundantly throughout Kansas this winter, which is interesting.

• We reported 1 Townsend’s solitaire, which is not a common bird in our count. It has only been reported five times in the past 25 years.

About CBC

The Christmas Bird Count is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society, with over 100 years of community science involvement. It is an early-winter bird census, where thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds. Each count takes place in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and is organized by a count compiler. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day.

This was the Audubon Society’s 119th Christmas Bird Count. It was conducted between the dates of Dec. 14, 2018, through Jan. 5.

Quivira open

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County also conducted a Christmas Bird County. The refuge has not yet posted its results. There is a note on the Quivira website noting that the refuge was affected during the recent government shutdown: “With the enactment of the continuing resolution, the National Wildlife Refuge System is slowly resuming regular operations; the schedule for individual wildlife refuges may vary depending on staff size and complexity of operations. Many wildlife refuges which have been accessible throughout the lapse in appropriations remain accessible with basic services. Visitors should contact individual refuges for the latest information opening schedules and accessibility and visitor services.

Christmas Bird Count totals

The species identified in the Cheyenne Bottoms CBC and numbers counted are listed below. A species seen during the week but not that day is listed as CW. Sp indicates unidentified species.

Snow Goose, unidentified, 16,900

White form, 372

Blue form, 166

Ross’s Goose, 156

Greater white-fronted goose, 1,205

Cackling goose, 3,237

Northern shoveler, 23

Gadwall, 75

American Wigeon, 3

Mallard, 1,822

Northern Pintail, 67

Green-winged teal, 70

Redhead, 8

Lesser Scaup, 14

Bufflehead, 3

Common Goldeneye, 161

Hooded Merganser, 3

Common Merganser, 397,

Ruddy Duck, CW

Duck sp., 250

Northern Bobwhite, 2

Ring-necked Pheasant, 6

Greater Prairie-Chicken, 1

Wild Turkey, 361

Rock Pigeon, 63

Eurasian Collared-Dove, 158

White-winged Dove, 12

Mourning Dove, 2

American Coot, 18

Ring-billed Gull, 241

Herring Gull, 65

Gull sp., 213

Great Blue Heron, 17

Northern Harrier, 98

Sharp-shinned Hawk, 4

Cooper’s Hawk, 4

Bald Eagle

- Adults, 12

- Immatures, 5

Red-tailed Hawk (including Krider’s), 75

Rough-legged Hawk, 3

Barn Owl, 3

Eastern Screech-Owl, 2

Great Horned Owl, 8

Belted Kingfisher, 2

Red-bellied Woodpecker, 8

Downy Woodpecker, 8

Hairy Woodpecker, 8

Northern Flicker

- Unidentified, 31

- Yellow-shafted, 18

- Red-shafted, 6

American Kestrel, 17

Merlin, 3

Prairie Falcon, 8

Loggerhead Shrike, 1

Blue Jay, 1

American Crow, 12

Horned Lark, 16

Black-capped Chickadee, 3

Red-breasted Nuthatch, 13

White-breasted Nuthatch, 7

Brown Creeper, 2

Winter Wren, 2

Marsh Wren, 1

Carolina Wren, 7

Golden-crowned Kinglet, 2

Eastern Bluebird, 42

Townsend’s Solitaire, 1

American Robin, 20

European Starling, 6,262

Cedar Waxwing, 3

House Sparrow, 157

House Finch, 97

American Goldfinch, 51

Lapland Longspur, 19

Spotted Towhee, 1

American Tree Sparrow, 100

Field Sparrow, 10

Song Sparrow, 11

Harris’s Sparrow, 87

Dark-eyed Junco, slate-colored, 144

Eastern Meadowlark, 1

Western Meadowlark, 305

Sturnella sp., 226

Red-winged Blackbird, 20,995

Brown-headed Cowbird, 1

Common Grackle, 250

Great-tailed Grackle, 5

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Myrtle, 26

Northern Cardinal, 17