Monday, December 10, 2007

Foggy Weekend and 2007 Bird Sightings

Fog covered the mountain most of the weekend. Freezing drizzle further obscured the view. Even at midday it looked and felt like dusk. The mountain was quiet too, as though the fog deadened the sounds around me. The bird feeders were busy all weekend. The icy conditions likely made it difficult for the local feeder birds to find much natural food.
I didn’t spend much time outside this weekend. Between holiday preparations and the ice that made walking treacherous, I was mostly inside. So perhaps that explains why I am already starting to compare my 2007 Roundtop bird list with the one from 2006.

Every year list has its own interesting differences, and 2007 is proving to be no exception. I’m currently at 83 species for the year at Roundtop, up from 77 in 2006. The number is likely to stay where it currently is until the end of the year. December is not typically the month when I find many new bird species. If I get very lucky a sapsucker might show up or perhaps one of this season’s irruptive northern species, but I’m not counting on that.

In the course of a year, I don’t see many differences in the total number of species found each month. May brings the most species of the year, and that remains a constant. February 2007 was an exception. It was quite cold compared with 2006 and I saw significantly fewer species as a result. In 2007 only four months (March, May, August, October) produced higher totals than 2006, and these totals were only 1-2 species higher than in 2006. So why is my yearly species total 5 birds higher than last years? The answer is that the variety of species in 2007 was good, but the number of sightings for the more common birds was somewhat lower.

When I look at my species by families, I find I had a decent year for waterfowl and raptors, a well above average year for shorebirds (that new pond has helped these totals a lot). Both the number of swallow species and the number of swallow sightings were much lower than normal. Warbler and vireo sightings on the mountain were abysmal in 2007—only 5 species when I can usually find 12-15 species of them.

2007 brought several species that are new to my Roundtop list. Double-crested cormorants were seen flying over the mountain not once but twice. Coot was a new species. The bobwhite family was a new species, as were the solitary sandpipers.

And the news is not all good. For the first 10-12 years I lived here Scarlet tanager was a regular summer resident. I heard that song regularly and often saw a pair or two of them. Since the woods were cleared and the new pond was built near the area where they nested, I haven’t heard them at all. Perhaps they’ve only gone deeper into the forest, but I miss that lovely song in early summer. Another missing species is field sparrow, which used to be common in the scrubby areas over by the tubing runs.

Overall, the results for 2007 were mostly pretty good, though I’m a bit concerned that the sightings of resident species is lower. Is that a trend or just a 2007 anomaly? Perhaps 2008 will bring some clarity.


Anonymous said...

It's great that you have a list like that, which you can look back over time and see the effects that changes has (both natural and man made) on local birding species. I hope your Tanager decline is due to local circumstances only, though I fear they like many other species are in an overall decline. Just points out the need for habitat preserveration even more than ever.

RuthieJ said...

That's interesting about your bird sightings, Carolyn. Do you keep a list every year? Have you noticed other trends from year to year too?

I did my first backyard list finally in 2007. I will be curious to see how 2008 differs.

Carolyn H said...

Vern and Ruthiej: Yes, i keep a list every year, though in my earlier years here, I didn't also track my sightings by month the way I do now. I see a lot of variaion from year to year in the uncommon or one-time sightings. Every year I always get something really unusual, unexpected even.

As time goes on though, I find i'm more interested in the changes to the common species than in the uncommon sightings.

Carolyn H.