2020 John Hintermister–Gainesville Christmas Bird Count Summary
By Andy Kratter
Many birders are people of measures: life lists, county lists, rarest bird, etc. We are prone to measure the success of our Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) by number of species seen, number of participants, number of rare birds, high counts of particular species, or overall number of birds. The standards by which we measure these milestones may be previous counts or comparable counts across the state or even the continent. By all measures, the John Hintermister–Gainesville CBC, with its 50+ years of history, has set some mighty high standards. In the past few years, this CBC has led the state of Florida in species seen (2018), has been the high inland count in the US (2018 and 2019), and has eclipsed all other US counts in high counts of species (2018). In 2018, we set a highwater mark of 175 species seen.
As we approached the 2020 CBC on December 20th, weather forecasts went from potentially pesky (chance of rain 30%) to downright troubling the night before (80% rain, possible strong winds, early morning fog). This being 2020, with its myriad of hardship and suffering, I half expected the worst, and made sure I had plenty of foul weather gear for our nautical excursions on Newnan’s Lake. We were already dealing with COVID-19 restrictions like social distancing, mask wearing, no car-pooling, and a compilation held on Zoom. Despite this year’s run of bad luck, a calm cool morning gave way to a mostly pleasant day, mixed with a few showers here and there. Fog and wind were negligible, and I think we all breathed a sigh of relief that we got a fine day of birding. That, in itself, was reason to measure this year’s count as a smashing success.
But, of course, we all still want to see the numbers. Overall, we made it to 162 species (+ a non-countable Whooping Crane), tied for the fourth highest ever (with 2012 and 2015). Given the weather and COVID restrictions, this is a fantastic number. Most amazingly, given these difficulties, we set all time high counts for 26 species, and tied the high count for two additional species. Especially noteworthy, we smashed our previous high counts by over 50% for Blue-winged teal (3128, old mark 1416), Ring-necked Duck (8002, old mark 3481), Purple Gallinule (19, the old mark 10), Yellow-throated Warbler (113, old mark 66), and Baltimore Oriole (120, old mark 72).The teal and duck numbers were boosted greatly by airboats on the prairie. High counts were recorded for four woodpecker species (Red-bellied, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy, Pileated) and three wren species (House, Sedge, Carolina).The grand total of about 77,500 individual birds was the highest number ever found on this count, and about 15,000 higher than most recent counts. Aside from the two ducks above, species with more than 2000 individuals were Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (7960), Sandhill Crane (7875), American Coot (2320), American Robin (4004), Tree Swallow (2021), Red-winged Blackbird (8296), Common Grackle (2502) and Boat tailed Grackle (2137).
Rare species provide the highlight reel of our count compilation. These were somewhat less prevalent this year (note to self: that is why they are rare!) but included: 20 Purple Finches were scattered across five of the 11 count sectors; 89 Snail Kites were at three sectors (Prairie Basin, Paynes Prairie State Park, west Prairie); two Rufous Hummingbirds were along the prairie rim and in NW Gainesville; the Paynes Prairie Basin also had 2 Roseate Spoonbills, 5 Least Bitterns, a Gray-Headed Swamphen, and a Least Flycatcher; the Prairie rim had its now yearly Ash-throated Flycatcher; the west Prairie had a Western Tanager visiting a feeder; the Kanapaha Prairie had a Nashville Warbler and its usual White-winged Doves; the UF campus area had a Western Kingbird (only fourth ever on our count); Morningside Nature Center had 3 Bachman’s Sparrows; and a Brown Pelican plopped next to our boat on Newnan’s Lake for only our third CBC record. On the day after the count, boat captain Tedd Greenwald sent me a photo he took of a warbler from count day – a beautiful Tennessee Warbler to add to the total. Great birds, a great day.
The John Hintermister–Gainesville CBC is administered by Alachua Audubon Society. Bob Carroll is co-compiler. Many thanks to all the participants and especially the eleven area captains (Debbie Segal, Bubba Scales, Craig Faulhaber, Helen Warren and Greg McDermott, Steve Hofstetter, Dan Pearson, Rex Rowan, Scott Robinson, Mike Meisenburg, Barbara Shea). Looking forward to a normal CBC in 2021 (Sunday December 19st)!
SPECIES LIST (rare birds in bold-face, high counts in bold-face, with previous high given).
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 7960 (old high 6872 in 2019), Muscovy Duck 267, Wood Duck 568, Gadwall 41, American Wigeon 62, Mallard 20, Mottled Duck 274, Blue-winged Teal 3128 (old high 1416 in 1984), Northern Shoveler 52, Northern Pintail 10, Green-winged Teal 339, Redhead 1, Ring-necked Duck 8002 (old high 3431 in 2018), Lesser Scaup 45, Bufflehead 12, Hooded Merganser 237, Ruddy Duck 91, Northern Bobwhite 10, Wild Turkey 75, Pied-billed Grebe 135, Horned Grebe 1, Rock Pigeon 17, Eurasian Collared Dove 1, Common Ground-Dove 12, Mourning Dove 556, White Winged Dove 4, Whip-Poor-Will 4, Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1, Selasphorus sp. 1, Rufous Hummingbird 2, King Rail 6, Virginia Rail 20, Sora 67, Purple Gallinule 19 (old high 10 in 2018), Gray-headed Swamphen 1, Common Gallinule 783, American Coot 2320, Limpkin 144, Sandhill Crane 7875, Whooping Crane 1, Killdeer 308, Least Sandpiper 44, Wilson’s Snipe 197, Long-billed Dowitcher 25, American Woodcock 7, Spotted Sandpiper 2, Greater Yellowlegs 69, Lesser Yellowlegs 56 (tied old high in 1985), Bonaparte’s Gull 1, Laughing Gull 8, Ring-billed Gull 124, Forster’s Tern 25, Common Loon 2, Wood Stork 154, Double-crested Cormorant 1003, Anhinga 434, Brown Pelican 1, American White Pelican 24,American Bittern 17, Least Bittern 5, Great Blue Heron 261, Great Egret 231, Snowy Egret 145, Little Blue Heron 323, Tricolored Heron 151, Cattle Egret 371, Green Heron 42, Black-crowned Night-Heron 126, White Ibis 1154, Glossy Ibis 901 (old high 750 in 1999), Roseate Spoonbill 2, Black Vulture 563, Turkey Vulture 809, Osprey 33 (old high 25 in 2019), Bald Eagle 110, Snail Kite 89, Northern Harrier 51, Sharp-shinned Hawk 12, Cooper’s Hawk 10, Accipiter sp. 1, Red-shouldered Hawk 226, Red-tailed Hawk 42, Barn Owl 5, Eastern Screech-Owl 18, Great Horned Owl 56 (old high 55 in 2012), Barred Owl 75 (old high 67 in 2019), Belted Kingfisher 58, Red-headed Woodpecker 28, Red-bellied Woodpecker 548 (old high 435 in 2008), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 136 (old high 115 in 2018), Downy Woodpecker 251 (old high 230 in 2008), Northern Flicker 55, Pileated Woodpecker 206 (old high 195 in 2019), American Kestrel 50, Merlin 6 (old high 5 2013), Eastern Phoebe 553, Least Flycatcher 1, Western Kingbird 1, Ash-throated Flycatcher 1, Loggerhead Shrike 18, White-eyed Vireo 102, Blue-headed Vireo 100, Blue Jay 381, American Crow 1037 (old high 813 in 2017), Fish Crow 78, Crow sp. 41, Tree Swallow 2021, Carolina Chickadee 402 (old high 379 in 2017), Tufted Titmouse 503 (old high 450 in 2018), Brown-headed Nuthatch 5, House Wren 327 (old high 325 in 2019), Sedge Wren 119 (old high 101 in 2016), Marsh Wren 39, Carolina Wren 636 (old high 521 in 2019), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 658, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 437, Eastern Bluebird 344, Hermit Thrush 60, American Robin 4004, Gray Catbird 238, Brown Thrasher 26, Northern Mockingbird 187, European Starling 22, Cedar Waxwing 613, House Sparrow 17, American Pipit 19, House Finch 102, Purple Finch 20, American Goldfinch 449, Ovenbird 10, Northern Waterthrush 2, Black-and-White Warbler 137, Orange-crowned Warbler 162, Nashville Warbler 1, Tennessee Warbler 1, Common Yellowthroat 314 (old high 292 in 2012), American Redstart 1, Northern Parula7 (tied old high in 2015), Palm Warbler 1410, Pine Warbler 393 (old high310 in 1995), Yellow-rumped Warbler 1694, Yellow-throated Warbler 113 (old high 66 in 2019), Prairie Warbler 7, Eastern Towhee 104, Bachman’s Sparrow 3, Field Sparrow 6, Chipping Sparrow 1193, Vesper Sparrow 10, Savannah Sparrow 232, Grasshopper Sparrow 5, Henslow’s Sparrow 2, Song Sparrow 35, Swamp Sparrow 405, White-throated Sparrow 14, Summer Tanager 10 (old high 5 in 2019), Western Tanager 1, Northern Cardinal 926 (old high 910 in 2010), Indigo Bunting 1, Painted Bunting 19, Red-winged Blackbird 8296, Eastern Meadowlark 152, Rusty Blackbird 155 (old high 120 in 2010), Common Grackle 2502, Boat-tailed Grackle 2137, Brown-headed Cowbird 586, Baltimore Oriole 120 (old high 72 in 2006). Total individuals 77,542 (old high 72,237 in 1977).
By Andy Kratter
2019 John Hintermister–Gainesville CBC Results Set Records!
National Audubon just released the results from the CBCs last winter (2019-20). With 170 species, the John Hintermister – Gainesville CBC was the highest in Florida and tied for 26th highest in the US, but we were the highest inland count in the nation. Our number of participants (133) was about 50th highest. We were third in the nation for numbers of national high count species, with 16. Kendall, Florida (south Miami) had 20, and Midway Atoll (Hawaii) had 18. Two of our high count species in 2019-20 were all-time national high counts!
The national highs for our count: (bold are all-time high counts): Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 6875, Snail Kite 104, Red-shouldered Hawk 229, Limpkin 510, Barred Owl 67, Vaux’s Swift 1 (tied), Pileated Woodpecker 195, Brown-crested Flycatcher 1 (tied), White-eyed Vireo 104, Blue-headed Vireo 114, House Wren 325, Wood Thrush 1 (tied), Black-and-white Warbler 131, Palm Warbler 1200, Yellow-throated Warbler 66, Baltimore Oriole 59.
By Andy Kratter