Count week has wrapped up for this year’s Grand Forks Christmas Bird Count. The actual count was held Sunday, but participants could observe and record birds on their own through Wednesday.
This marks the 115th year for the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which began Sunday and continues through Jan. 5.
Dave Lambeth of the Grand Cities Bird Club, who compiles info for the Grand Forks count, wrote in a posting on the club’s listserv that he observed sharptails dancing on a lek near Grand Forks on Wednesday morning when the temperature was 0 degrees. Although spring mating season is a long ways off, Lambeth said it’s not unusual for sharptails to be dancing on leks this time of year.
While watching the grouse, Lambeth said he saw a prairie chicken join the group. That’s bad, he said, because it increases the risk of the chickens cross-breeding with sharptails, in turn depleting the area’s remaining population of prairie chickens.
Also of note, Lambeth in his post said he observed a common raven at the west end of the extension of 32nd Avenue South. Other species Lambeth saw Wednesday included a snowy owl, a northern shrike (which Lambeth says was in “hot pursuit” of a red-winged blackbird) and about 65 cedar waxwings in front of the Grand Forks Post Office.
In his final report on this year’s count, Lambeth noted that observers counted 45 species, along with one race (Oregon junco) on count day, along with seven additional species during the count week that ended Wednesday for a total of 52 species and 4,590 individual birds.
According to Lambeth, the most unusual species were three cackling geese, two northern pintails, one ruddy duck, a northern goshawk, three barred owls and five varied thrush. The most abundant species was the rock pigeon (1,112), followed by Canada geese (902), European starling (436), house sparrow (403), black-capped chickadee (265), dark-eyed junco (256) and American crow (241). Lambeth reported the number of house sparrows was the lowest in 40 years and far below the high of 7,334 tallied in 1989.
Nearly 2,400 “count circles” are planned this year across North America, along with parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies and Pacific islands. During the counts, participants tally every individual bird and species they see within the count circle’s 15-mile radius.