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Field Trip Report
Philadelphia Mid-Winter Bird Census. January 11, 2003
was the 17th annual Philadelphia Mid-Winter Bird Census.
Weather: sunny day with seasonable temperatures and (except for some windiness) generally good birding conditions.
Species: 93, cf 91 for 1987-2003 but slightly less than for 1995-2003, ( 96). No new species were added to the cumulative total of 138.
Individuals: quite low at 26,718, most observers remarked that many songbirds, in particular, were less numerous than in previous years. Numbers for common songbirds like Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Cardinals, and Carolina Wrens were among the lowest ever recorded for these species, continuing a trend towards lower numbers for many 'common' songbirds observed on the census since in the late 1990s. While recent declines in House Finch numbers have been linked to the disease avian conjunctivitus (this year's House Finch total was the second lowest ever), reasons for lower numbers of other songbirds remain unclear. Among songbirds, only Eastern Bluebird (23) and Chipping Sparrow (6) were recorded at record high levels. Both were also observed by a record high number of parties (5 and 3 respectively).
This year the census was preceded by a colder than average fall, that included several snow storms, but no prolonged periods of subfreezing temperatures. Nevertheless the cold fall may have been responsible for the low number of lingering songbirds found this year. The only lingerers recorded were an Eastern Phoebe, observed at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (JHNWR) by Skip Conant and Shirly Robbins (who were not participating in the census), and a Common Yellowthroat observed in the Byberry section of Northeast Philadelphia by Tim McFadden. These were the 6th census records of both species. Given the almost complete absence of northern finches and other invasive winter songbirds from the region this winter, the 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches found by Winston Moody in the lower Wissahickon were also a pleasant surprise.
Waterbirds were recorded in normal numbers and most expected species were found. Highlights included a Common Loon and 6 Bonaparte's Gulls found by David Cutler on the Delaware River (this was only the 2nd census record for Bonaparte's Gull), and 2 Horned Grebes found by Adrian Binns and Bert Filemyr also on the Delaware. Additionally, this year's totals for Lesser Black-backed Gull (7), Wood Duck (13), and Gadwall (19) were all time highs,and the 384 Ruddy Ducks counted was the highest number since 1989, perhaps signalling that this once abundant species' numbers may be finally rebounding. Second highest ever totals were recorded for American Black Duck (330) and Killdeer (21), and Redhead (found by David Cutler at the East Park Reservoir) was recorded for the first time since 1988. One Hutchinson's Canada Goose (rare in our area) was found at the Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant (a.k.a. sewage treatment plant) by George Armistead and Dan Hegerty. Among expected waterbirds, only Pied-billed Grebe and Black-crowned Night-Heron were missed. This was only the 5th time Black-crowned Night-Heron was missed, but only the first time Pied-billed Grebe (present at Roosevelt Park earlier this winter) has been missed. Despite a widespread scarcity of American Coots this winter, 4 were found at Roosevelt Park by Rich Horwitz and Sandy Sherman.
Of possible raptors only Rough-legged Hawk (always irregular) was missed. Bald Eagle and Merlin, both rarely recorded in early years, have now been recorded every year except one since 1997 and 1998, respectively. This year¹s most unusual raptor was an adult Northern Goshawk (7th record) found by Jan Gordon, Denis Brennan, and Gregg Gorton at Bartrams Gardens.Red-tailed Hawks were slightly less numerous than average, and the single Northern Harrier observed this year tied the previous all time low of one set in 1998.
While windy conditions (which were worst before dawn) reduced the number of owls found by most observers, David Belford managed to produced his usual total of 9 Eastern Screech-Owls and 2 Great Horned Owls in the Wissahickon, as well one of the highlights of this year's census, a Saw-whet Owl - a species that has only been recorded on the census twice before.
Unfortunately, Ring-necked Pheasant, which has steadily declined over the years, was missed for the first time ever, and two Long-eared Owls that had been present in Northeast Philadelphia were also missed.
|Common Loon||1||Ruddy Duck||384||Yellow-billed Sapsucker||7||Cedar Waxwing||23|
|Horned Grebe||2||Bald Eagle||3||Downy Woodpecker||94||Yellow-rumped Warbler||1|
|Double-crested Cormorant||10||Northern Harrier||1||Hairy Woodpecker||22||Common Yellowthroat||1|
|Great Cormorant||42||Sharp-shinned Hawk||17||Northern Flicker||33||Eastern Towhee||6|
|cormorant sp.||4||Cooper's Hawk||7||Pileated Woodpecker||2||American Tree Sparrow||49|
|Great Blue Heron||27||Northern Goshawk||1||Eastern Phoebe||1||Chipping Sparrow||6|
|Black Vulture||5||Red-shouldered Hawk||1||Blue Jay||158||Field Sparrow||13|
|Turkey Vulture||14||Red-tailed Hawk||48||Ammerican Crow||1180||Savannah Sparrow||2|
|Canada Goose||2999||American Kestrel||13||Fish Crow||45||Fox Sparrow||10|
|Hutchinson's (Canada) Goose||1||Merlin||2||crow sp.||12||Song Sparrow||484|
|Wood Duck||13||Peregrine Falcon||3||Carolina Chickadee||305||Swamp Sparrow||12|
|Gadwall||19||American Coot||4||Tufted Titmouse||219||White-throated Sparrow||1558|
|American Wigeon||1||Killdeer||21||Red-breasted Nuthatch||2||White-crowned Sparrow||4|
|American Black Duck||330||Bonaparte's Gull||6||White-breasted Nuthatch||63||Dark-eyed Junco||755|
|Mallard||1025||Ring-billed Gull||5139||Brown Creeper||11||Northern Cardinal||378|
|Northern Shoveler||25||Herring Gull||1334||Carolina Wren||92||Red-winged Blackbird||165|
|Northern Pintail||20||Lesser Black-backed Gull||7||Winter Wren||13||Rusty Blackbird||6|
|Canvasback||156||Great Black-backed Gull||214||Golden Crowed Kinglet||28||Common Grackle||69|
|Redhead||1||Rock Dove||1519||Ruby-crowned Kinglet||2||Brown-headed Cowbird||23|
|Ring-necked Duck||3||Mourning Dove||434||Eastern Bluebird||23||House Finch||339|
|Lesser Scaup||13||Eastern Screech Owl||13||Hermit Thrush||3||American Goldfinch||164|
|Bufflehead||31||Great horned owl||6||American Robin||714||House Sparrow||1054|
|Common Goldeneye||2||Northern Saw-whet Owl||1||Gray catbird||1|
|Hooded Merganser||5||Belted Kingfisher||11||Northern Mockingbird||149|
|Common Merganser||76||Red-bellied Woodpecker||78||European Starling||4325|
Individuals: 26,718 Total Species: 94 Cumulative Species Total (1987-2003) 138
Keith Russell / Census Coordinator Contact Information