Saturday, December 17, 2016
Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir CBC

Despite challenging weather conditions that produced consistently heavy 
snowfall with very low visibility throughout much of the first half of 
the count day, the 67th annual Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir (NYML) 
Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted yesterday in Ulster 
County, NY.

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 was apparently the case yesterday as twelve field 
parties collectively found a new record high 84 species, shattering the 
previous high count of 79 species from previous years (2014, 2012, and 
2007), and well above our most recent ten-year average of 74 

A remarkable ten bird species considered rare or unusual for this 
particular count circle were encountered on count day, including one 
species recorded for the first time in the 67-year history of this 
survey.  American Coot was a new addition to the count composite, 
advancing our historical total to 147 species.  Lapland Longspur was 
found for only the third time, the first since one was recorded in 1988. 
Peregrine Falcon was also recorded for just the third time, following 
single records in 2012 and 2009.  A Wilson's Snipe represents our fourth 
overall record (last recorded tens years ago in 2006), a lone Killdeer 
and a Long-eared Owl 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 eight overall record for this CBC.

The total number of Merlins (4) 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 Woodpecker (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 individuals (13,778) ranked above our recent ten-year 
average of 12,811, but was greatly influenced this year by a total of 
3,919 geese (1,285 Snow/2,634 Canada), following in the wake of an 
enormous southward movement of Snow Geese flying over the county, with 
over ten-thousand birds observed in just a few daylight hours on one day 
earlier this past week.  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 seen and photographed in 
the count circle associating with a large flock of mixed blackbirds on 
two separate occasions just prior to the start of count week was not 
observed on count day and may ultimately be relegated to the status of a 
sore count week miss, pending any last-chance appearance over the 
remaining three days of count week.

A summary report with the complete list of species tabulated by sector, 
including area descriptions and observer and effort information, will be 
posted on the John Burroughs Natural History Society web site.  I 
gratefully extend by thanks and appreciation to all of the nearly 40 
participants who provided complete coverage of the count circle under 
difficult circumstances, and to those who tried to make it out to their 
assigned routes but were snowed-in and 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.  And most especially, my sincere thanks and gratitude for 
Kyla Haber and Mark DeDea for organizing the compilation event and 
preparing the bulk of all the great food.

The 2017 Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir CBC is scheduled for the 
traditional first Saturday of the count period, December 16, 2017.

Steve M. Chorvas
Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir CBC Compiler
Saugerties, NY


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