73rd Annual NYML CBC

The 73rd annual Ulster County Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir (NYML) Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on Saturday, December 17, 2022, under very pleasant weather conditions. A total of 61 participants (56 field observers and 5 feeder watchers) in 20 field parties encountered 11,798 individual birds representing 72 species, plus three additional count week species. The above totals do not include one additional review species (Golden Eagle) which may lack sufficient documentation. For historical context, diversity was eight species below our ten-year average (80), and total abundance was down 2,846 individuals, averaging 14,644/year over the past ten years. Our all-time record high count for this circle remains at 87 species/22,307 individuals, both recorded in 2017. Combined effort (participation, field parties, and field party hours) continues to increase and surpass historical averages.

Environmental conditions were favorable for conducting a survey, less than desirable for concentrating birds or encouraging any discernible movement of birds into our count area. Count day temperatures were relatively mild (31 – 43 °F) with 5-12 mph NNW winds interspersed with periods of calm throughout the day. Early morning fog was followed by
sunshine and variable overcast, with increasing clouds later in the day. No precipitation was recorded on count day, snow depth varied from .5″ to 3″, covering 30-90% terrain, depending on location and exposure. Moving water was mostly free of ice, flowing high and rapidly. Still bodies of water were mostly to entirely frozen. Stone Ridge Pond was 50% open, Fourth Binnewater Lake attracted a nice diversity of waterfowl, and Ashokan Reservoir was frozen in one count section, open and choppy in the lower basin area.

Most species were detected in below average numbers, typical of results in mild Decembers with fair weather preceding the survey and persisting through the count day. Despite the relative overall lack of birds, eleven species were detected in sufficient numbers to tie or establish new record-high counts:

Gadwall – 17 (surpassing 16 in 2016, 2.8 ten-year average). All on Stone Ridge Pond, 10th historical record.
Ring-necked Duck – 62 (28 in 2014, 9 avg.). 61 on Fourth Binnewater.
Bald Eagle – 24 (18 in 2015, 10.7 avg.). Widespread throughout the count circle.
Red-shouldered Hawk – 14 (9 in 2017, 5 avg.)
Red-tailed Hawk – 94 (84 in 2018, 60 avg.)
Barred Owl – 9 (ties 9 in 2018, 5.3 avg.)
Belted Kingfisher – 12 (11 in 2020, 5 avg.)
Tufted Titmouse – 554 (419 in 2015, 303 avg.). A remarkable increase of 135 individuals in a year when active bird feeders were few and far between.
Winter Wren – 16 (12 in 2017, 6.7 avg.)
Carolina Wren – 129 (121 in 2018, 72 avg.)
Eastern Bluebird – 205 (195 in 2014, 140 avg.)

A count week Northern Shoveler found on Stone Ridge Pond represents a first record for the historical count composite (currently 147 species plus 4 count week). One Lesser Scaup and three American Wigeon on Fourth Binnewater, and a count week Northern Pintail on Stone Ridge Pond represent only the sixth time each species has been recorded on this count. The Golden Eagle, a single-observer report of an immature bird seen flying at ~1,000 feet over Berme Road in High Falls, would represent a fifth record for this count if accepted. One Northern Saw-whet Owl on Smith Lane in Marbletown, a Peregrine Falcon in flight over Ashokan Reservoir, and two Merlin were additional noteworthy records.

There were no record low counts, and no particular species stands out as a bad miss. Red-headed Woodpecker increasingly more abundant and widespread in the county, and apparently visiting a suet feeder in the count circle, was a disappointing miss when they were not detected during a drive-by of the feeder location and nearby breeding grounds. Horned Grebe was not found on Ashokan Reservoir this year (present in 40 of the past 72 years), concentrations of this species in our area are typically associated with northern lakes freezing over and driving more birds south. Common Loon, Rough-legged Hawk, Great Black-backed Gull, and Eastern Meadowlark are species previously encountered in at least twenty or more years that were not detected this year. Ruffed Grouse (46 past years) and Evening Grosbeak (34 years) were also missed, but are no longer expected on this count. Lastly, the greatly anticipated Ross’s Goose that graced Stone Ridge Pond over a four-day period apparently departed just three days shy of count week.

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 field participants and feeder watchers for another nice job providing excellent coverage, to the sector leaders for recruiting and organizing their field parties and submitting their data in a timely manner, and to Mark DeDea, Kyla Haber, and everyone that helped with refreshments and arrangements at our post-count compilation in the Hasbrouck Park stone building. Next year’s Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir CBC is scheduled for the traditional first Saturday of the count period, December 16, 2023.

Steve M. Chorvas – Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir CBC Compiler

Follow this link for the NYML ARCHIVE