Saturday, Dec. 26 provided good birding conditions for 15 birders participating in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. The temperatures were in the 20s and the sun appeared for part of the day. While there was snow on the ground, there wasn’t enough to impede walking.
Before sunrise, counters heard 3 Great Horned Owls. Once the sun was up, the counters started walking through neighborhoods. Birdfeeders were quiet early, but eventually became busy. The most numerous bird seen was the Black-capped Chickadee at 178. Woodpeckers were well represented: 29 Red-bellied, 49 Downy, 19 Hairy and 12 Pileated Woodpeckers. Unlike some years, not many finches were counted this year: 6 House Finches, 12 Purple Finches, 13 Pine Siskins and 72 American Goldfinches.
Other birds seen at or near feeders included 34 Blue Jays, 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 72 White-breasted Nuthatches, 6 House Sparrows, 10 American Tree Sparrows, 53 Dark-eyed Juncos and 61 Northern Cardinals. A Northern Shrike, which hunts other birds, was spotted on the edge of the former minnow farm, near houses with feeders. In addition, 2 Northern Flickers were seen.
The birders saw a reasonable number of water birds, including 114 Canada Geese, 30 Trumpeter Swans, 12 Mallards and 1 American Black Duck. Other birds seen near water or wetlands included 76 American Robins and a record 3 Wilson’s Snipes, hanging out together on the edge of a stream.
Out in the countryside, counters saw 10 Ring-necked Pheasants, which was an unusually large number. They also spotted 35 Wild Turkeys, 18 Mourning Doves, 33 European Starlings and 2 Red-tailed Hawks. One White-throated Sparrow was spotted, which was unusual for this time of year.
Finally, above both inhabited and open areas, the birders counted 50 American Crows and 11 Bald Eagles.
The birders counted 1032 individual birds and 33 species. In addition, during the count period (Three days before and after the count day), the birders saw a Bufflehead and heard an Eastern Screech Owl, both unusual birds on the bird count.
The Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count takes place throughout the Americas between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 each year. Tens of thousands of volunteers participate in this citizen-science activity. The Audubon Society and other organizations use the data collected to assess the health of bird populations and guide conservation efforts. The 2020 count was the 121st year of the national Audubon Society count. It was the 63nd year for the St. Paul Northeast Suburban count, which takes place in a 15-mile-diameter circle centered on Withrow. The Marine and May Township group counts birds in just a portion of this circle (from Square Lake Trail on the south to O'Brien Park on the north, and from the river on the east to Olinda Trail and Norell Avenue on the west).