2015 Middlefork River Valley CBC Results by Steve Bailey

Here are the results from the Middle Fork River Valley Christmas Bird Count held this winter on December 16, 2015. BIG thanks to all of this year’s other count participants and those who have either helped several times on the Middle Fork CBC or who have helped virtually every year of this CBCs 32 year history! Special thanks to Connie Cunningham and especially Grant Cunningham for sharing their home near Oakwood to once again host this year’s CBC compilation potluck dinner. Grant’s venison stews and/or chili are always an enjoyable and welcome, warm and tasty meal after a long, cold day counting birds!
Observers were out counting birds from 5:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Birds tallied included 76 species on the day of the count, plus three Count Week species seen the day before the count (Northern
Shoveler, Ruddy Duck & Sandhill Crane). A total of 79, 968 birds were tallied on this year’s CBC. This year’s 76 species found on count day is about the average number found on this Christmas Bird Count. The KING RAIL & OSPREY were both new species to ever have been found on this count becoming the 142nd & 143rd species of bird to be recorded all-time, in the 32 year history of this count, and naturally were the two rarest birds found on this years CBC.

Almost all bird species’ numbers were lower to noticeably down in number on this year’s count, especially the passerines, where almost every specie’s numbers were lower than the past couple of years, even though we had the same or similar numbers of observers looking for birds. Only the three blackbird species had higher (significantly!) numbers this year. This was likely at least in part due to very mild weather, though a colder than normal November, with a very early significant snowfall, likely hurried many bird’s movements to more southern areas. Despite this, several species were noted with a record high number for the species on this CBC. The 55 Snow Geese, 15 Green-winged Teal and 21 Pied-billed Grebes were all new high counts for this CBC. Likewise, all of the blackbird species sat new record highs for this count including more than five times the previous record number of Red-winged Blackbirds and more than triple the previous high counts for Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cowbirds. This year was also the third highest number of Ring-billed Gulls found on this count with only the 987 found on the Dec. 14, 2007 and the 864 found on the Dec. 17, 2003 counts being higher. It was also the third highest tally of Belted Kingfishers ever, with only the 23 found on the Jan. 3, 2007 and the 18 found on the Dec. 14, 2005 tallies being higher. This year’s 8 Common Redpolls doubled that specie’s previous high count. On a low note, though we have never missed Horned Lark on the Middle Fork CBC, the two Horned Larks found on this year’s Middle Fork CBC tied for the lowest ever with the two found on the Jan. 1, 2012 count. It was also the second lowest American Crow numbers since the 72,800 found on the Jan. 5, 2005 CBC and last year’s low of 60,700.