The 70th annual Ulster County Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir (NYML) 
Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted this past Saturday, 14 
December 2019 under very challenging field conditions.  Pending count 
week additions and data verification, fifty-one (51) participants in 
fifteen (15)
field parties encountered a total of 10,711 individuals representing 75 
species, plus four (4) additional count week species.

Extremely dense fog with rain showers persisted throughout the count 
day, severely limiting visibility.  Combined with mild air temperatures 
(35 - 51 degrees F), exposed ground and generally open water, there was 
little incentive for birds to congregate.  Diversity was three species 
below our ten-year average of 78 species/year and twelve shy of our 
all-time record high 87 species recorded in 2017.  Total abundance was 
well below our ten-year average of 13,897 individuals and less than half 
our record high 22,307 in 2017.

Despite the visual impediments, there were numerous highlights and 
several positive record-setting observations.  Two Marsh Wrens were seen 
in the Harcourt Sanctuary in New Paltz, representing a new species to 
the count composite, advancing our historical cumulative to 148 species. 
Also noteworthy for this count circle, a Barn Owl was heard in Cottekill 
for only our second historical record, previously encountered on this 
CBC in 1953!  A field party surveying for sparrows in open farmland 
habitat inadvertently flushed a Short-eared Owl from a patch of tall 
cover crop, representing our second count record for this species 
previously recorded only during the count week period in 1985.  One 
Northern Saw-whet Owl was heard within this year's count week period.

Two species of shorebirds lingered in the count circle, a Killdeer seen 
in Stone Ridge (6th record), and a Wilson's Snipe flushed from pondside 
vegetation in High Falls (5th count record).  A total of 14 Red-headed 
Woodpeckers were found dispersed over multiple locations, a remarkable 
increase compared to our previous high count of 7 recorded just last 
year and our recent ten-year average of 1.9 individuals/year.  Northern 
Flickers were also encountered in remarkably high numbers, establishing 
a new high count of 77 compared to 47 in 2017 and a ten-year average of 

New record high counts were also established for Field Sparrow (13, 
eclipsing 12 in 2018), White-throated Sparrow (1,029 / 984 in 2017), and 
Song Sparrow (234 / 222 in 2017).  Four widely-dispersed Merlins tied 
our previous high count from 2016, and three Gray Catbirds tied a 
previous high count from 1967.  Four Ruby-crowned Kinglets, five Hermit 
Thrushes, four Yellow-rumped Warblers, two Fox Sparrows, and a single 
Eastern Towhee were detected on count day.  Red-winged Blackbirds (90), 
Common Grackles (82), and Brown-headed Cowbirds (10) were present in 
small numbers, and a tentative total of 120 Carolina Wrens was just one 
shy of our previous record-high count.

Irruptive winter finches were non-existent, and poor visibility likely 
influenced an unremarkable tally of waterfowl and the absence of both 
species of vultures and Wild Turkey on count day, with Black Vulture and 
Wild Turkey documented during the count week period.  Horned Larks (11) 
and Snow Buntings (16) were found at just one agricultural site, while 
Belted Kingfishers (5) and Great Blue Herons (5) were scattered 
throughout the count area.  No species detected on this year's survey 
were encountered in record-low numbers.

A complete summary report will be posted on the John Burroughs Natural 
History Society website at a later date.  Thanks to all of the field 
participants and feeder watchers for excellent coverage and another 
great effort under adverse conditions, and a special thanks again this 
year to Kyla Haber, Mark DeDea, and everyone that helped with preparing 
the food and facilities for our post-count compilation at Hasbrouck Park 
in Kingston.  Next year's Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir CBC is scheduled 
for the traditional first Saturday of the count period, December 19, 

Steve M. Chorvas

Mohonk Lake/Ashokan Reservoir CBC Compiler

Saugerties, NY


NYSbirds-L List Info:


Please submit your observations to eBird:


Reply via email to