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67th Annual NYML CBC

The 67th annual Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir (NYML) Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on Saturday, December 17, 2016, under challenging weather conditions that produced consistently heavy snowfall with very low visibility throughout the first half of the count day. Conditions improved by mid-day as the snow ended with an accumulation of 5-6” on top of roughly 3” remaining from a previous storm earlier in the week. Temperatures ranged from a low of 19 ° F to a high of 30 ° F with relatively little wind (0-5 mph). Small bodies of still water were largely frozen, Ashokan Reservoir and all of the major creeks were mostly open and flowing moderately.

Inclement weather, especially a snow event, often has the affect of concentrating birds in sheltered locations and at various food and water resources, typically producing more favorable count results in comparison to an average winter day, or exceptionally pleasant conditions. This apparently was the case this year as twelve field parties collectively found a new record high 84 species (plus one count week Mute Swan), shattering our previous high count of 79 and well above our most recent ten-year average of 74 species/year.

A remarkable ten species considered rare or unusual for this count circle were encountered on count day, including one species recorded for the first time in the 67-year history of this survey. An American Coot on Fourth Binnewater Lake was a new addition to the cumulative count, advancing our historical total to 147 species. Lapland Longspur was found for only the third time, the first since 1988. A Peregrine Falcon encountered on Mohonk Preserve was also a third historical record, following single records in 2012 and 2009. Wilson’s Snipe on Fourth Binnewater Lake represents our fourth overall record, and a lone Killdeer on Fourth Binnewater Lake and a roosting Long-eared Owl in a conifer tree on private property off Kripplebush Road were found for only the fifth time. Wood Duck was our sixth record, Gadwall and Merlin were found for the seventh time, and American Pipit was our eighth overall CBC record.

Thirteen Ring-necked Ducks, one Red-headed Woodpecker, and two Rusty Blackbirds were also noteworthy, as were five Evening Grosbeaks and a total of 16 Pine Siskins, infrequent on this count over the past decade. Four Merlins represents a new high count, reflecting their expanding presence and wider distribution in the county, with geographically distinct individuals observed by three different field parties. New high counts were also established for Snow Geese (1,285, eclipsing 870 in 2013), Gadwall (16, eclipsing 8 in 2015 and 1993), Rock Pigeon (598, previously 538 in 2005), Red-bellied Woodpecker (101, previously 97 in 2015), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (19, previously 16 in 2013), Savannah Sparrow (21, eclipsing 14 in 2014), and Dark-eyed Junco (1,822, eclipsing 1,722 in 2013).

Our final tally of 13,783 individuals ranked above our recent ten-year average of 12,811, but was greatly influenced this year by 3,919 geese (1,285 Snow Geese and 2,634 Canada Geese), following in the wake of a spectacular southward movement of Snow Geese flying over the county earlier in the week, with over ten-thousand birds observed in just a few daylight hours on one day alone. Overall numbers of gulls and American Crows were well below average, but no new record-low counts were set for any species. An adult male Yellow-headed Blackbird was seen and photographed in the count circle on two separate occasions just prior to the start of count week, but was not observed on count day or during the following three days of the count week period, relegating this extreme rarity to a sore count week miss.

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, observer, and effort information. Asterisks indicate unusual species for this count circle, “cw” indicates a count-week only species. I gratefully extend my thanks and appreciation to all of the participants for providing complete coverage of the count circle under difficult circumstances, and to those who tried to make it out to their assigned routes but were unable to do so. To everyone that attended and brought something to our always enjoyable post-count compilation at Hasbrouck Park, and to the sector leaders that were not able to make it to the compilation but submitted their data in a very timely manner this year. And finally, my sincere thanks and gratitude to Kyla Haber and Mark DeDea for continuing to organize and prepare food for the compilation event.

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 16, 2017.