Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dearborn portion of Detroit River CBC, 2016

The Detroit River Michigan-Ontario Christmas Bird Count was held, as it is each year, on January 1. This was the 38th year for the count, which is centered at I-94 and Warren Ave, and the 22nd year that RRBO has coordinated the field work in the city of Dearborn.

After a record warm December, the new year came in cold (27-35F), breezy, and with snow flurries all day long. Water was still open, so waterfowl was not only not concentrated, but apparently largely elsewhere.  The Rouge River at the Ford Rouge complex usually has a decent variety of diving ducks, but not this year. However, there were two Lesser Black-backed Gulls there; one there last year was the first on the count. Seven Great Black-backed Gulls were also present. This is a pretty average number now for a species that used to be rare in the Great Lakes. The complex is also an unusual but annual wintering spot for Black-crowned Night-herons. There were 22 counted this year, a little above the average of 19.2 for the previous 10 years. Peregrine Falcons have become nearly annual on the Dearborn portion of this count, and this year's was found at the complex as well.

After some issues the last couple of years, personnel was re-jiggered to make sure the UM-D campus habitat was well covered. The snow and wind made small birds hard to find, and in general nothing notable was found. The west side of the river across from campus was also thoroughly searched, and you can read about that section with some great photos of a hybrid Mallard x American Black Duck and robins eating privet at Into the Woods and Elsewhere.

A personal issue sidelined one participant, and left most sunflower/wildflower fields uncounted and some other routes in the city uncovered. Only one major field had standing sunflowers, though, the one in front of Ford World Headquarters at Michigan Avenue and Mercury. It got a quick once-over, and the count’s third Merlin was found there.

Merlin. Photo copyrighted, no use without permission.

Pine Siskins have only been recorded on four counts, so 14 at a west Dearborn feeder was a good find.  An adult Bald Eagle has been seen around the river several times, but didn't show up on count day. It was found on January 2 for a "count week" species. Red-breasted Nuthatches have been very scarce the last couple of winters, but one has been seen regularly in the Springwells Park neighborhood. Unfortunately, it was last seen sometime around Christmas.

Everyone familiar with this count and our winter bird surveys knows that Dearborn has not seen its American Crow population recover since it was decimated by West Nile Virus -- my most recent summary is here. Last year it finally happened: no crows for the first time in the history of the count. This year there were also no crows counted.

We ended the day with 37 pecies, which is a record low. No new species this year keeps the cumulative species count for the Dearborn portion of this CBC at 88.

The complete results of the Dearborn portion of the Detroit River CBC can be found at the RRBO web site, which includes historical results.

You can read an analysis of the first 25 years of the overall count in this paper:

Craves, J. A., and J. A. Fowler, Jr. 2003. Twenty-five years of the Detroit River Michigan-Ontario Christmas Bird Count (pdf). Ontario Birds 21:109-128.