The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has published its report of the highlights of this year's Great Backyard Bird Count. The biggest highlight of all is that it was a record-breaking weekend!
First of all, participants submitted an amazing 104,151 checklists with 17.4 million individual bird observations. New records for the number of checklists were set in 22 states and in 6 Canadian provinces. Throughout the North American continent and in Hawaii, participants identified 623 species of birds. It truly is wonderful what citizen science can accomplish.
The bird that was reported on more checklists than any other was our old friend, the Northern Cardinal.
The most numerous bird reported during this year's count, though, was the Snow Goose.
One of the most astonishing counts was the one for Tree Swallows. They had never before appeared in the top-10 of the most numerous birds reported, but this year, they were number two, right behind the Snow Goose. This was due to a massive flock of the swallows, estimated at some two million birds, that were roosting in Ruskin, Florida.
Another highlight of this year's count, of course, was the irruption of Snowy Owls. They were reported throughout the Great Plains and south to Kansas. The owl's main prey in their Arctic home is lemmings, and in years when the lemming population crashes, the birds are forced to move farther south in search of prey. That is apparently what happened this winter.
Likewise, a crash in the production of seeds favored by redpolls brought the Common Redpoll and Hoary Redpoll farther south than they are normally seen. Some Common Redpolls were reported as far south as California. Moreover, the numbers of both Common and Hoary Redpolls that were reported in Canada were down significantly this year because the birds had moved farther south.
You can read all about these stories and others in the highlights report itself. And if you participated in the big count, give yourself a pat on the back. You were a record-breaker!