Valley Forge Audubon Society’s 35th Christmas Bird Count took place on Saturday, Dec 26, 2020. A warm, rainy Christmas Day was followed by a cold, windy day on Dec 26, making for unpleasant conditions. A total of 64 hardy participants spent 181 hours in the field, which is the highest number of participants and hours ever recorded. A total of 78 species were observed, 2 more than average. Among the interesting finds were tundra swans, long-eared owls, peregrine falcons, savannah sparrows, and rusty blackbirds. In addition, we had 2 irruptive species (pine siskins and purple finches).
Counts were above average for bald eagles, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, common raven (highest ever), red-breasted nuthatch, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, Carolina wren, winter wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, Eastern bluebird, hermit thrush, field sparrow, song sparrow, and white-throated sparrow (highest ever). Some of the high numbers overall may be due to the above-normal number of party-hours.
Below average counts were noted for mallard, American kestrel, ring-billed gull, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, American crow, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, American robin, Northern mockingbird, yellow-rumped warbler, and common grackle.
Carolina wrens and white-breasted nuthatches are doing well while Carolina chickadees and tufted titmouse are continuing to struggle. The low robin count may be an indication of poor fruit availability in the woods and thickets. Blue jays may have moved out of the area last winter due to poor acorn supplies, leading to their low count.
Common ravens continue to thrive in the area since making their first appearance in 2013 and we expect this trend to continue. As disastrous as the Emerald Ash Borer has been to Ash trees, the abundance of this insect may have benefited hairy and pileated woodpeckers.
Please pencil into your calendars June 5, 2021, for the Spring Bird Count and Sunday, December 26, 2021, for the Christmas Bird Count. We are always looking for volunteers to join the count. Beginners are welcome to join the count and will be paired with more experienced birders.