On December 15, members of the Eagle Nature Foundation and the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation conducted their Annual Jo Daviess County Christmas Bird Count as part of the National Audubon Society’s Annual International Christmas Bird Count. Twenty-four volunteers, working in six count teams, traveling 301 miles, taking 26.5 hours, counted 2,979 birds of 41 different species.
Species with the greatest numbers included: house sparrows – 573, starlings – 466, crows – 370, turkeys – 206, dark-eyed juncos – 179, cedar waxwings – 143, black capped chickadees – 140, and rock doves – 131. Summer birds seen included 72 eastern bluebirds, one red-winged blackbird, and one robin. New species never counted before were ten sandhill cranes flying south over the area.
What was most surprising was that fact that very few waterfowl, 25 Canadian Geese and one tame duck, were seen in spite of the warm weather and completely open water. Birds of prey included; 14 bald eagles, three northern harriers, 45 red tailed hawks, four rough-legged hawks, three Cooper’s hawks, 19 kestrels, one barred owl, one great horned owl and two northern shrikes.
Birds absent from this year’s count included: mallards, sharp-shinned hawks, goshawks, ringed-neck pheasant, killdeer, horned larks, lapland long spurs, yellow-shafted flicker, song sparrows, purple finches, redpolls, and pine siskins. Those species with lower numbers than normal include: red-headed woodpecker –one, blue jays – 94, cardinals – 80, slate colored juncos – 179, and American tree sparrows – 64. Past counts have recorded over 1,000 juncos and tree sparrows each in a single count.
Each year the compiler for the count, Terrence Ingram, who has been the compiler for this count for over 50 years, predicts what the rest of the winter is going to be like based on the birds seen during the count. Based on the fact that very few northern birds were seen and a good number of summer birds were seen, he is predicting that we will have a mild winter.