Christmas Bird Count

The brainchild of ornithologist Frank Chapman at the American Museum of Natural History in 1900, the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count was among the first true citizen science endeavors. Today, with more than a century of data under our collective belt, the CBC provides some of the best data on long-term population trends for wintering birds in the US and Canada. For species that breed well north of the reach of the Breeding Bird Survey, the CBC provides our only systematic sample of populations.

Our Stillwater CBC was founded in 1947 by husband-and-wife ornithologists Fred and Marguerite Baumgartner. Their efforts, combined with the dedicated leadership and service of all the members and friends of the Payne County Audubon Society, have helped build a remarkable database that tracks bird populations and, by extension, habitat changes in our region.

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For just one example, check out this comparison of Loggerhead Shrike vs. Eurasian Collared Dove on our count over the last 30 years or so. (The abundance estimate on the vertical axis is birds/party-hour, which is a way to correct for the varying number of people participating year to year):

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The grassland-dependent Loggerhead Shrike has declined dramatically, especially within the last 15 years. In contrast, the urban-adapted Eurasian Collared Dove has recently colonized Stillwater and is steadily increasing in abundance.

This page explains a bit more about our local Christmas Bird Counts, and provides summaries of past counts. We hope you can join us for the next one in December 2017!

Notes in preparation of the 2017 CBC:

Our Stillwater count circle is centered 2 miles north of Rt. 51 on Redlands Rd. and extends for 7.5 miles in all directions from that point. On the preselected day of the count, we’ll do our best to count every individual of every species – even starlings and pigeons – within our circle.  To do that and avoid double-counting the same birds, we divide the circle into zones with a leader who will organize the effort in that smaller area.  Here is our circle with the last names of the folks in charge of collecting the data in each zone in 2016:

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If you would like to participate but haven’t yet made contact with a trip leader, please contact me at tim.oconnell@okstate.edu and I’ll put you in touch with the right person.

To submit your count data, use the following form to report the total number of each species you observed in your count area. (If counting from a stationary location such as a backyard, report the largest number of each species you observe at any one time – don’t count the same cardinal on your feeder as a different bird every time you see it.)

Please use these checklists for 2016 CBC birding  note that we will produce new checklists in advance of the 2017 counts:

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winter-birds-pcas

NOTE: It’s very important that we capture some information from you in addition to your bird counts, especially if you do any portion of the count on your own.  We will need to report how many people were in your party, their first and last names, how many hours you spent looking for birds, and how many miles you drove and/or walked over the course of the day.  This information is necessary to calculate the abundance of species detected as a function of the total effort invested.Walking miles are always difficult to estimate, but if you take a moment to jot down the time and your vehicle mileage before you head out, that will help a lot!

Watch this space for announcements related to the 2017 Sooner Lake and Stillwater Christmas Bird Counts next year. Here are some do’s and don’ts:

  • DO join us for one or both counts.
  • DON’T think you’re not good enough at counting birds to help. The CBC is a great way to get started in birding!
  • Thanks, have fun, be safe, and good birding!

2016 Christmas Bird Count Results!

The 117th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Counts have been completed. The Sooner Lake CBC was conducted on Monday, Dec. 19 and the Stillwater CBC on Wednesday, Dec. 21.

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Morning dawned pink, purple, and cold at Lake Carl Blackwell

Twenty-six people donated their time and talents to the Stillwater CBC, and we are grateful to each of them: Alex James, John Polo, Tim O’Connell, Ian Kanda, Sean Smart,
Damona Doye, Elaine Stebler, John McQuaig, Austin Jenkins, Holly Ewing, Scott Loss, Les Imboden, Leslie Miller, Freddy Miller, Helen Jordan, Lelia Heading, Kent Andersson, Linnea Andersson, Jennifer Grindstaff, Caitlin Laughlin, Mike Yough, Corey Riding, Jane Cronin, Eric Duell, Cyndi Park, and Jonathan Harris.

Together, these volunteers tallied 22,018 individuals of approximately 106 species. We set new high counts for at least 29 species:

number Species Total number Species Total
1 Greater White-fronted Goose 41 55 Red-headed Woodpecker 8
2 Snow Goose 2 56 Red-bellied Woodpecker 63
3 Cackling Goose 634 57 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 31
4 Canada Goose 3820 58 Downy Woodpecker 58
5 swan sp. 1 59 Hairy Woodpecker 7
6 Wood Duck 6 60 Northern Flicker 92
7 Gadwall 682 61 Pileated Woodpecker 9
8 American Wigeon 98 62 American Kestrel 37
9 Mallard 1594 63 Merlin 4
10 Mallard (Domestic type) 7 64 falcon sp 1
11 Northern Shoveler 96 65 Eastern Phoebe 2
12 Blue-winged Teal 101 66 Loggerhead Shrike 3
13 Green-winged Teal 66 67 Blue Jay 456
14 Northern Pintail 11 68 American Crow 232
15 Canvasback 45 69 Carolina Chickadee 211
16 Redhead 184 70 Tufted Titmouse 46
17 Ring-necked Duck 49 71 Red-breasted Nuthatch 4
18 Lesser Scaup 14 72 White-breasted Nuthatch 31
19 Greater Scaup 2 73 Brown Creeper 8
20 Bufflehead 95 74 Winter Wren 3
21 Barrow’s Goldeneye 7 75 Sedge Wren 1
22 Common Goldeneye 22 76 Carolina Wren 86
23 Hooded Merganser 332 77 Bewick’s Wren 7
24 Common Merganser 186 78 Golden-crowned Kinglet 12
25 Ruddy Duck 26 79 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 16
26 duck sp. 62 80 Eastern Bluebird 287
27 Northern Bobwhite 6 81 Hermit Thrush 8
28 Wild Turkey 22 82 American Robin 3429
29 Common Loon 4 83 Northern Mockingbird 94
30 Pied-billed Grebe 24 84 European Starling 1907
31 Double-crested Cormorant 12 85 Cedar Waxwing 1147
32 American White Pelican 30 86 Yellow-rumped Warbler 164
33 Great Blue Heron 54 87 Chipping Sparrow 9
34 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 2 88 Field Sparrow 61
35 Northern Harrier 21 89 Fox Sparrow 13
36 Sharp-shinned Hawk 8 90 Dark-eyed Junco 679
37 Cooper’s Hawk 4 91 White-crowned Sparrow 14
38 Red-shouldered Hawk 39 92 Harris’s Sparrow 166
39 Red-tailed Hawk 119 93 White-throated Sparrow 52
40 Rough-legged Hawk 1 94 Savannah Sparrow 33
41 American Coot 112 95 Song Sparrow 166
42 Killdeer 11 96 Lincoln’s Sparrow 20
43 Least Sandpiper 8 97 Swamp Sparrow 4
44 Wilson’s Snipe 2 98 Spotted Towhee 27
45 Greater Yellowlegs 2 99 sparrow sp. 45
46 Ring-billed Gull 373 100 Northern Cardinal 208
47 Herring Gull 12 101 Red-winged Blackbird 401
48 Rock Pigeon 275 102 Eastern Meadowlark 203
49 Eurasian Collared-Dove 38 103 Western Meadowlark 46
50 Mourning Dove 422 104 Western/Eastern Meadowlark 275
51 Greater Roadrunner 5 105 Brewer’s Blackbird 562
52 Great Horned Owl 15 106 Common Grackle 40
53 Barred Owl 7 107 Great-tailed Grackle 8
54 Belted Kingfisher 21 108 Brown-headed Cowbird 362
109 House Finch 23
110 Purple Finch 16
111 American Goldfinch 91
112 House Sparrow 198

The seven(!) Barrow’s Goldeneyes reported from Lake McMurtry win the rarity prize for this count, but without photos they’re likely to be omitted in the records review process. We also had some great “count week” birds (those observed within 3 days before or after the count, but not on the count day itself): Brown Pelican, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Red-breasted Merganser (all from Boomer Lake).

There is always plenty to see on a Christmas Bird Count, and this year was no exception:

Official2016CBCresults

2015 Results

Stillwater’s Audubon Christmas Bird Count took place on Saturday, Dec. 19th 2015, with 31 members and friends spending a day in the field counting local birds. The local count, held each year since 1947, represents the longest-running census of wintering birds in Stillwater and the surrounding area. Within the 177 square mile count area, birders tallied more than 18,600 birds of at least 98 different species. We are grateful to Jim Ownby for compiling our local data!

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A Downy Woodpecker always cheers you up on a crisp December day!

It was a good day for birding, with moderate temperatures (at least once the sun came up!) and little wind. This year we’ve seen few “irruptive” species, birds who occasionally appear from the north, such as Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskin. Neither was tallied on the count.

The complete unofficial tally of birds follows. To learn more about any of these species, check out Audubon’s free online Guide to North American Birds.  You can find photos, range maps, recorded calls, and detailed natural history information for each of the species on our list.  For example, check out the entry for Gadwall.

  1. Cackling Goose, 37
  2. Canada Goose, 2554
  3. Wood Duck, 12
  4. Gadwall, 175
  5. American Wigeon, 36
  6. Mallard, 345
  7. Northern Shoveler, 81
  8. Northern Pintail, 6
  9. Green-winged Teal, 158
  10. Canvasback, 3
  11. Redhead, 102
  12. Ring-necked Duck, 90
  13. Lesser Scaup, 1
  14. Bufflehead, 65
  15. Common Goldeneye, 2
  16. Common Merganser, 3
  17. Hooded Merganser, 21
  18. Ruddy Duck, 2
  19. Northern Bobwhite, 6
  20. Wild Turkey, 8
  21. Pied-billed Grebe, 25
  22. Horned Grebe, 2
  23. Double-crested Cormorant, 10
  24. Great Blue Heron, 14
  25. Northern Harrier, 23
  26. Sharp-shinned Hawk, 4
  27. Cooper’s Hawk, 12
  28. Bald Eagle, 4
  29. Red-shouldered Hawk, 19
  30. Red-tailed Hawk, 87
  31. American Coot, 83
  32. Killdeer, 48
  33. Greater Yellowlegs, 6
  34. Wilson’s Snipe, 1
  35. Ring-billed Gull, 164
  36. Rock Pigeon, 310
  37. Eurasian Collared Dove, 12
  38. Mourning Dove, 380
  39. Greater Roadrunner, 2
  40. Eastern Screech-Owl, 2
  41. Great-horned Owl, 12
  42. Barred Owl, 4
  43. Belted Kingfisher, 6
  44. Red-headed Woodpecker, 2
  45. Red-bellied Woodpecker, 92
  46. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 27
  47. Downy Woodpecker, 49
  48. Hairy Woodpecker, 11
  49. Northern Flicker, 85; (65 Yellow-shafted, 10 Red-shafted, 10 unknown)
  50. Pileated Woodpecker, 12
  51. American Kestrel, 21
  52. Merlin, 3
  53. Eastern Phoebe, 5
  54. Loggerhead Shrike, 3
  55. Blue Jay, 254
  56. American Crow, 370
  57. Carolina Chickadee, 152
  58. Tufted Titmouse, 60
  59. White-breasted Nuthatch, 16
  60. Brown Creeper, 4
  61. Carolina Wren, 73
  62. Bewick’s Wren, 4
  63. Golden-crowned Kinglet, 7
  64. Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 17
  65. Eastern Bluebird, 354
  66. Hermit Thrush, 2
  67. American Robin, 6,002
  68. Brown Thrasher, 4
  69. Northern Mockingbird, 67
  70. European Starling, 2,670
  71. Cedar Waxwing, 1,050
  72. Smith’s Longspur, 95
  73. Yellow-rumped Warbler, 154
  74. LeConte’s Sparrow, 5
  75. American Tree Sparrow, 9
  76. Chipping Sparrow, 7
  77. Field Sparrow, 71
  78. Fox Sparrow, 3
  79. Dark-eyed Junco, 514
  80. White-crowned Sparrow, 25
  81. Harris’s Sparrow, 124
  82. White-throated Sparrow, 17
  83. Savannah Sparrow, 28
  84. Song Sparrow, 134
  85. Vesper Sparrow, 1
  86. Lincoln’s Sparrow, 5
  87. Swamp Sparrow, 3
  88. Spotted Towhee, 6
  89. Eastern Towhee, 2
  90. Northern Cardinal, 167
  91. Red-winged Blackbird, 63
  92. Eastern Meadowlark, 461 (89 reported as Eastern, 372 as “Meadowlark”)
  93. Brewer’s Blackbird, 43
  94. Common Grackle, 35
  95. House Finch, 37
  96. Purple Finch, 1
  97. American Goldfinch, 159
  98. House Sparrow, 223

Birders who participated in the count were:  Kent Andersson, Cody Barnes, Talia Branham, Anne Collins, John Couch, Damona Doye, Eric Duell, Alin Gonzalez, Jennifer Grindstaff, Lelia Heading, Alex James, Helen Jordan, Caitlin Laughlin, Britton Lilly, Scott Loss, Bob McCormick, Peggy McCormick, Cindy McGill, Noah McGill, Iris McPherson, Joyce Meyer, Leslie Miller, Helena Moranz, Ray Moranz, Arpad Nyari, Tim O’Connell, Charlotte Ownby, Jim Ownby, Monica Papes, John Polo, and Elaine Stebler.

2014 CBC Results

The 2014 Audubon Christmas Bird Count took place on Saturday, Dec. 20th. We are grateful to Jim Ownby for coordinating the CBC and providing the following results:

Members and friends of Payne County Audubon Society participated in the 115th annual National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count on December 20, 2014. The local count, held each year since 1947, represents the longest-running census of wintering birds in Stillwater and surrounding Payne County. Within the 177 square mile count area, birders tallied more than 15,000 birds of 101 different species.

It was a fine day for birding, with cool temperatures and little wind. The only true rarity was a Lewis’s Woodpecker, normally found in the Rocky Mountains, that has been seen at Lake Carl Blackwell since at least Nov. 18th. Dark-eyed Juncos, the commonest wintering sparrow in Payne County, were not as abundant as in most years.

Prairie Falcon in the
Prairie Falcon in the “Lewis’s Woodpecker” tree at Lake Carl Blackwell, 20 Dec. 2014. Photo by Tim O’Connell.

Since the first count was held in 1947, a substantial part of the count area has been converted from prairie grassland to residential areas. More prairie has been lost to invasive red cedar. We now see fewer birds that winter on the prairie and in riparian areas, such as Eastern Meadowlarks, American Tree Sparrows, Bewick’s Wrens, and Northern Bobwhite. The changes in habitat have benefited species such as Red-shouldered Hawks, American Robins, and Cedar Waxwings, as well as non-native European Starlings and House Sparrows.

The complete unofficial tally of birds was:

Common Loon, 1
Pied-billed Grebe, 12
Double-crested Cormorant, 17
Great Blue Heron, 32
Cackling Goose, 62
Canada Goose, 3425
Wood Duck, 5
Gadwall, 194
American Wigeon, 42
Mallard, 661
Blue-winged Teal, 33
Northern Shoveler, 9
Northern Pintail, 8
Green-winged Teal, 32
Canvasback, 73
Redhead, 34
Ring-necked Duck, 92
Lesser Scaup, 8
Greater Scaup, 10
Common Goldeneye, 91
Bufflehead, 27
Ruddy Duck, 12
Hooded Merganser, 6
American White Pelican, 82
Turkey Vulture, 1
Bald Eagle, 2
Northern Harrier, 19
Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1
Cooper’s Hawk, 4
Red-shouldered Hawk, 32
Red-tailed Hawk, 112
Rough-legged Hawk, 1
American Kestrel, 21
Merlin, 1
Wild Turkey, 130
American Coot, 151
Killdeer, 4
Greater Yellowlegs, 1
Common (Wilson’s) Snipe, 2
Bonaparte’s Gull, 2
Ring-billed Gull, 764
Rock Pigeon, 157
Mourning Dove, 424
Eurasian Collared Dove, 11
Greater Roadrunner, 5
Great Horned Owl, 11
Short-eared Owl, 1
Barred Owl, 5
Belted Kingfisher, 11
Red-headed Woodpecker, 27
Red-bellied Woodpecker, 58
Downy Woodpecker, 42
Hairy Woodpecker, 6
Lewis’s Woodpecker, 1
Pileated Woodpecker, 4
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 12
Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker, 19
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker, 5
Eastern Phoebe, 1
Horned Lark, 16
Blue Jay, 412
American Crow, 287
Carolina Chickadee, 188
Tufted Titmouse, 54
White-breasted Nuthatch, 21
Brown Creeper, 4
Carolina Wren, 60
Bewick’s Wren, 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 9
Golden-crowned Kinglet, 6
Eastern Bluebird, 410
American Robin, 2352
Loggerhead Shrike, 5
Northern Mockingbird, 93
Brown Thrasher, 4
European Starling, 1856
American Pipit, 1
Cedar Waxwing, 522
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, 33
Spotted Towhee, 17
American Tree Sparrow, 4
Field Sparrow, 25
Savannah Sparrow, 3
Fox Sparrow, 2
Song Sparrow, 35
Lincoln’s Sparrow, 1
White-throated Sparrow, 14
White-crowned Sparrow, 45
Harris’s Sparrow, 107
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco, 466
Smith’s Longspur, 1
Northern Cardinal, 279
Red-winged Blackbird, 10
Eastern Meadowlark, 53; Meadowlark sp., 314
Brewer’s Blackbird, 232
Common Grackle, 61
Brown-headed Cowbird, 66
Pine Siskin, 1
American Goldfinch, 136
House Finch, 15
House Sparrow, 218

Birders who participated in the count were: Kent Andersson, Fidel Atuo, Laurie Clemens, Jim Cowley, Suzanne Cowley, Damona Doye, Eric Duell, Elisa Elizondo, Jennifer Grindstaff, Lelia Heading, Deb Hirt, Les Imboden, Alex James, Helen Jordan, Caitlin Laughlin, Bob McCormick, Peggy McCormick, Freddy Miller, Leslie Miller, Andrew Moranz, Helena Moranz, Ray Moranz, Arpad Nyari, Tim O’Connell, Jim Ownby, Monica Papes, John Polo, Thea Pratt, Natalia Santos, Bob Schlottmann, Elaine Stebler, Sue Taylor, and Susan Walker.

Lisa, Fidel, and Tim take a selfie break at Lake Carl Blackwell.
Lisa, Fidel, and Tim take a selfie break at Lake Carl Blackwell.