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  • Ann and Rob Simpson

2020 Christmas Bird Count Results

Inspite of 4-6 inches of snow and the COVID issue, NSVA was able to go forward with the local 2020 Christmas Bird Count. Overall, there were 48 counters who noted 93 bird species and over 45,000 individual birds, the most numerous bird being the European Starling, which accounted for about half of all individual birds seen. In addition to the 93 species on the count day, a few more species were noted during the count week, such as Barred Owl, Evening Grosbeak and Gray Catbird. Some rarities or unusual species that turned up on the official count day included Snow Goose, Cackling Goose, Virginia Rail, Short-eared Owl, Merlin (a record 4), Peregrine, and a Brewer’s Blackbird. We had hoped there would be a major influx of northern finches, but the only ones we got were Purple Finch (386) and Pine Siskin (22). A small number of Black-capped Chickadees (7) were found, and this has turned out to be a very minor invasion year for them.

Carolina Chickadees/CACH and Eastern Tufted Titmouse/ETTI had very low counts for the two previous (2018 & 19) CBC years. CACH: 81 in 2018 & 79 in 2019. ETTI: 58 in 2018 & 75 in 2019. We could not figure out the reason for the two-year dramatic drop in these local species, which normally number in the hundreds on our count. Fortunately, this year both species have increased to a less worrisome number: CACH 244 and ETTI 224. If anyone has any suggestions on the previous precipitous drop in numbers, please email me your thoughts to:

We had all three falcons, including 4 Merlins, a high count for that increasingly regular species.

We seemed to have more than normal the number of high counts of individual species. It was not from having more observers, as we occasionally have up to 75 birders. The 48 CBC birders is probably slightly below average, and no one canoed the river, which always adds a good number of individuals of some species (probably the reason we had an all-time low 14 of Belted Kingfishers.) Our 11 Bald Eagles would have increased by a few if we had the river covered by canoe – if anyone would like to do it next year let me know. I did it for the first 8 counts and it is a great count experience.

The following birds were observed in record high numbers for our count: Gadwall 73, Red-shouldered Hawk 56 (from 1970 – 90’s it was uncommon species, and now a common year-round resident), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 86, Common Raven 40 (maybe an indication of their new status as a breeder in the Shenandoah Valley- one nest is near the Warren County Fairgrounds on an old silo,) Hermit Thrush 52 (maybe a testament to the large number of drupes and berries available,) Fox Sparrow 49, Dark-eyed Junco 1920, White-throated Sparrow 1883, Savannah Sparrow 93, Northern Cardinal 887 (the excellent herbaceous seed crop probably accounted for the record numbers of seed eaters.) For our count, the 93 Savannah Sparrows is quite remarkable. It is interesting that we have hardly any Juncos at our own home feeder, but a large 100+ flock of White-throated Sparrows. Lots of Juncos in the weedy areas – I wonder if other people have them at their feeders?

Thanks to everyone for the great count and especially to Charlie Hagan for his many years of overall organization of our local CBC. Larry Frey did excellent work compiling our data and providing the statistical chart.

Best and be safe – Ann and Rob Simpson

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