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68th Annual NYML CBC

The 68th annual Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir (NYML) Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on Saturday, 16 December 2017, under relatively pleasant weather conditions. Collectively it was another exceptionally productive count, following last year’s record-breaking number of species. Pending review and acceptance of several unusual species for this count circle, a tentative new record high of 87 species were found on count day, plus an additional two species during the count week period (Mute Swan and Merlin), surpassing last year’s record 84 species and well above our ten-year average of 76 species/year.

Abundance also set a new record high, with 22,307 individuals substantially exceeding our previous high count of 16,092birds in 2008, and well above our ten-year average of 13,242 birds/year. This year’s tally was greatly influenced by 5,811 Canada Geese, a number that was adjusted down by more than 1,000 birds in an attempt to account for potential duplication of roving flocks; and an incredible 3,504 American Robins (2,027 recorded by just one field party). Our effort also set a new record high this year with 15 field parties, 44 field observers, and 3 feeder watchers contributing to the final numbers.

Temperatures ranged from a low of 16° F to a high of 30° F with relatively little wind (0-5 mph). A brief period of early morning snow flurries was followed by partly cloudy skies with intermittent sunshine. Small bodies of water and marshes were largely frozen, Ashokan Reservoir and major creeks were mostly open, and there was no snow cover over most of the terrain.

Highlights include our first record of Greater White-fronted Goose, nicely photographed in a field in New Paltz associating with a large flock of Canada Geese, advancing our 68-year cumulative total to 147 species. Three species were recorded for only the second time in this count’s history, a Golden Eagle observed in flight over the Farm Hub in Marbletown (previously recorded in 1998), and a Canvasback (3 in 1972) and one White-winged Scoter (4 in 2011) observed on the lower basin of Ashokan Reservoir. A lone Eastern Phoebe on Maple Ridge Bruderhof property in Ulster Park was recorded for only the third time, last appearing on this count in 2008. Two Peregrine Falcons, single individuals observed by two separate field parties, represent our fourth count record and a new high count. One Long-tailed Duck on Ashokan Reservoir also represents a fourth count record for this species, absent from this count since 1975. A Black Scoter on Ashokan Reservoir was observed just outside the count circle and would have been a first count record, and an interestingly odd large gull with a black mantle and bright yellow legs appears to be an aberrant Black-backed Gull or hybrid, and was recorded as an unidentified gull species.

There were no record low counts this year, and an additional twenty species were found in sufficiently high numbers to tie or establish new record high counts (HC), with all of our regularly occurring woodpeckers detected in remarkably good numbers:

Cooper’s Hawk (16, eclipsing 12 in 2015), Red-shouldered Hawk (9, eclipsing 7 in 2014), Great Horned Owl (14, double the previous HC of 7 in 2014 and well above our 2.4 ten-year average), Barred Owl (7, tying the previous HC from 2010, double our ten-year average of 3.5).

Red-bellied Woodpecker (141, well above the previous HC of 101 in 2016 and our ten-year average of 71), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (40, more than double our HC of 19 in 2016, four-times our ten-year average of 10/year), Downy Woodpecker (165 surpassing 161 in 2014), Hairy Woodpecker (45, surpassing 40 in 2014), Northern Flicker (47, nearly double our HC of 24 in 2015 and well above the 14.3 ten-year average), and Pileated Woodpecker (33, edging out 31 from 2011 and 2014). One Red-headed Woodpecker was not enough to establish a new high count, but is always a good find, occurring for the 13th time on this census with a previous high of 3 in 1984.

Northern Shrike (1, tying our previous high counts, our 8th overall record), Winter Wren (12, eclipsing 8 in 2012, well above our ten-year average of 3.2), Golden-crowned Kinglet (80, eclipsing 75 in 2009), Hermit Thrush (13, edging out 12 in 2013), American Robin (an amazing 3,504 birds, incomparable to our previous HC of 942 in 1998), Yellow-rumped Warbler (14, tying our HC from 1989), Fox Sparrow (11, surpassing 7 in 2015), White-throated Sparrow (984, more than double the 488 recorded in 2008), Song Sparrow (222, eclipsing 180 in 2012), American Goldfinch (495, well above our previous HC of 335 in 2014).

Follow this link for the full report along with a table of count results. The table summarizes the count results by sector, followed by area descriptions with observer and effort information. Asterisks indicate unusual species for this count circle, “cw” indicates a count-week only species. Thanks to all of the participants for a remarkable effort, and once again this year, a special thanks to Kyla Haber, Mark DeDea, and everyone that helped with preparing the food and facilities for the post-count compilation at Hasbrouck Park in Kingston.

Steve M. Chorvas
Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir CBC Compiler

SAVE THE DATE – Next year’s Mohonk Lake-Ashokan Reservoir CBC is scheduled for Saturday, December 15, 2018.