Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 Date Announced and Last Year's Highlights

Cooper's Hawk – a common backyard bird in Tucson
This year’s Tucson Valley Christmas Bird Count will be held on Sunday, December 15, so mark your calendars. The CBC period runs from December 14-January 5 every year, and the compiler for each CBC can choose any day during that period to conduct his or her count, but it seems to have worked fine for Tucson Valley in the past few years to hold it on the first Sunday of the period, the day after the neighboring Catalina Mountains CBC is usually held.

Our count last year came up with some exciting results, including a near-record number of species and by far a record high number of participants. Comparing the numbers of each species from year to year and discovering trends or unexpected changes is always a fun exercise, but one could take forever to try to unravel what each number means.

More fun is just to measure up our success compared to other counts nationwide and try to beat some records. This past year we broke the all-time national high count for two species, something rarely done by any CBC these days – after all, there have been 114 years of record keeping. Cooper’s Hawk, having increased greatly in Tucson over the past 15 years showed no change in this trend, and we saw 105. By comparison, the next closest CBC was San Diego with a still-impressive 44. The other all-time high was Vermilion Flycatcher with 190, blowing the old record of 118 clear out of the water (and the runner-up last year was Gila River with only 40). This species doesn’t seem to have a long-term trend in Tucson, and although numbers have been increasing over the past few years, the huge jump last year was rather a surprise.

We had the highest count nationwide for six additional species and tied with 2 more, which gives Tucson Valley a total of 10 national highs last year. These final 8 species were (with the next-highest number and CBC name in parentheses):

Gila Woodpecker 820 (357, Carefree)
Plumbeous Vireo 19 (12, Long Beach-el Dorado)
Cassin's Vireo 4 (4, Dudleyville)
Verdin 797 (273, Carefree)
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2 (2, San Diego)
Yellow-headed Blackbird 13600 (7509, El Paso)
Lesser Goldfinch 1739 (1143, Putah Creek)
Lawrence's Goldfinch 246 (72, Nogales)

Join us this coming SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15 for another fun count and potluck species countdown at the end of the day.

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