IRON COUNTY—On Dec. 15, members of Lee LeBlanc Audubon Club and feeder watching friends participated in the 114th national Christmas Bird Count and the 31st count in Iron County.
In 1983, an Audubon member, David Tiller, and friends established the 15-mile diameter count circle in Iron River, with its center at the junction of US-2 and M-89. That inaugural year also saw a record number of evening grosbeaks (510). Those counting by car have ranged from five to eight people. This year’s counters were Jerry and Gail Weeks, Elizabeth Tiller, Marlin Rickey and Mark LeDoux.
The road counters are greatly assisted by loyal feeder counters within the circle. This year had 14 feeding stations participating. Feeder counters included: Bea Bauer, Norm and Diane Borske, Dolores Christensen, Tom and Dode Emerson, Ed Erickson, Dodie Felger, Julian Fernandez, Bud and Diane Jacob, Stan and Barb Thomas, Anitha Thomas, Jack Jacobson, Dale Safford, Ken and Dorothy Javoroski, and Steve and Lori Babler.
2013 was a slow year, said organizers. A stiff wind throughout much of the day kept the birds in cover and limited sightings. We tallied only 29 species with 1841 individuals. Missing from the count entirely were ruffed grouse and barred owl.
Contributing to the low count this year was a lack of winter finches migrating into the area from the north. “We recorded only one common redpoll compared to 330 in 2004 and only two purple finches compared to 319 in 1996, said Elizabeth Tiller.
“There were no pine grosbeaks recorded this year and no pine siskins. Many of these so-called “erratic migrants” come south in large numbers in years of low food availability further north. The only abundant winter finch in 2013 was American goldfinch with 647 recorded.”
Several more southerly species have increased in abundance over the years. This year tallied six red-bellied woodpeckers, a record for the Iron County count and four northern cardinals. Mourning dove sightings have also increased over the years with 171 counted this year.
Noteworthy sightings this year included two sharp-shinned hawks hunting around a feeder and one very cold appearing American robin eating buckthorn berries in the town of Iron River.
The total list of species sighted during the count were: bald eagle, sharp-shinned hawk, wild turkey, rock pigeon, mourning dove, red-belled woodpecker, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, norther shrike, gray jay, blue jay, American crow, common raven, black-capped chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, American robin, European starling, American tree sparrow, dark-eyed junco, northern cardinal, common grackle, purple Finch, common redpoll, American goldfinch, evening grosbeak and house sparrow.