The 69th annual Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir (NYML) Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on Saturday, 15 December 2018, under very mild and pleasant weather conditions. Fifty (50) field observers and three (3) feeder-watchers in sixteen (16) field parties encountered a total of 14,500 individuals representing 81 species, plus one additional count week species (Cackling Goose).
Diversity was four species above our current ten-year average of 77 species/year; six species shy of our all-time record high count of 87 species in 2017. Total abundance was slightly above the ten-year average of 14,056 individuals, but well-below our record high 22,307 from last year. No new species were added to the count composite, maintaining our historical total at 147 species.
Unusual for this count circle, a Northern Pintail was found on Spring Lake, representing our third count record for a species first recorded on this count in 2012. One Northern Saw-whet Owl was detected in a nontraditional location near the Hurley Recreation Center in Hurley, and a lone Long-eared Owl was detected at a historical wintering location on private property in the Kripplebush area, where a Northern Shrike was also observed. Three Peregrine Falcons represent a new high count and the fifth time this species has been recorded on this count, all within the last ten years. One individual was observed at Ashokan Reservoir, and two were seen along Hurley Avenue.
A single Gray Catbird lingered in the Marbletown area, and a total of ten American Pipits were found in two distinct locations on open agricultural lands off Hurley Mountain Road. Two count week Cackling Geese were also observed in a farm field off Hurley Mountain Road on Friday, one day before the count, associating with a large flock of Canada Geese.
Eleven additional species were encountered in record high numbers: Bufflehead (8, eclipsing 4 in 2007), Red-tailed Hawk (84, surpassing 80 in 2010), Rock Pigeon (856, well above the 598 recorded in 2016), Barred Owl (9, compared to 7 in 2017), Red-headed Woodpecker (7, more than double our previous high count of 3 from 1984), Red-bellied Woodpecker (153, eclipsing 141 in 2017), Downy Woodpecker (169, surpassing 165 in 2017), Pileated Woodpecker (40, eclipsing 33 in 2017), Blue Jay (539, eclipsing 520 in 2005), Carolina Wren (121, an impressive number in comparison to our previous high count of 68 in 2014), and Field Sparrow (12, edging out 11 from 1979 that stood as our high count for nearly 40 years). No species previously recorded on this count was found in record low numbers. Two Rusty Blackbirds, two Red-winged Blackbirds, a lone Yellow-rumped Warbler, four Belted Kingfishers, and six Great Blue Herons lingered in the count area. Hermit Thrush (4), American Robin (231), and Cedar Waxwing (33) were present in relatively small numbers, but Eastern Bluebirds (194) were just one shy of our all-time record high. The highly anticipated incursion of northern irruptive species did not materialize during this day’s effort. Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, and Pine Siskin were entirely absent. Two Red-breasted Nuthatches, two Purple Finches, and only three Evening Grosbeaks (single individuals in three distinct locations) were disappointingly few in number.
A Northern Bobwhite was seen on private property in Ulster Park, but omitted from the record based on the likelihood that this bird was a direct release or offspring of released birds, with no evidence to suggest otherwise.
Temperatures were remarkably mild for this annual mid-December count, ranging from a low of 37° F to a high of 50° F with little or no wind. Skies were overcast throughout the day, occasionally hinting at some filtered sunshine behind the solid cloud cover. Virtually all bodies of water, including Ashokan Reservoir, were free of ice, with major creeks flowing high and rapidly from copious rainfall. No precipitation was recorded on count day, and there was no snow cover over the mostly unfrozen terrain.
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 14, 2019.