Willmar area bird count a productive one

Jan. 6—WILLMAR — An early December cold snap put ice on most area water bodies, and sent many waterfowl on their way to warmer climes.

All the same, volunteers in the 2022 Willmar Area Christmas Bird Count spotted waterfowl ranging from mallards and geese to trumpeter swans. They also found abundant numbers of woodland and other bird species common to this area's habitat.

The Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022 count was a productive one: Organizers Joel Halbritter and Joel Schmidt reported in a summary of the day's work that 47 species of birds were observed, which is above normal. The volunteers tallied 2,574 birds.

It marked the 61st anniversary of the Willmar area bird count and the 123rd for the citizen science endeavor conducted nationwide in the name of the National Audubon Society.

The local organizers reported that 29 volunteers took part in the 2022 count. It's the count held after two years of following COVID-19 safety protocols, which limited volunteer interaction.

This year's volunteers included 12 who carried binoculars into the field and 17 who kept a careful eye on their home bird feeders. Temperatures on Dec. 17 in Willmar ranged from a low of 12 degrees at the day's start to a high of 27, or very close to average for the time of year.

The cold snap that preceded the count did matter. The number of waterfowl counted was down due to the extent of the ice up in the count area. Previous years had seen high numbers of Canada geese, but this year's observers recorded only 64.

Although the amount of open water to be found in the count area was limited, it did not disappoint. The volunteers counted 171 trumpeter swans. This is the sixth consecutive year that trumpeter swans have been observed.

This year's count also included the observation of one tundra swan. It's only the third time this species has been counted. The other two were in 1999 and 2001, the organizers said

The volunteers counted many woodland species, as would be expected for the habitat in the count area, the organizers noted. Four different species of woodpeckers, including 12 pileated woodpeckers, were counted.

Some of the area's familiar winter birds, such as black-capped chickadees and dark-eyed juncos, were found in large numbers. There were also 225 cedar wax wings counted.

As always, participants were able to observe a wide variety of well-known birds. Bald eagles (18), ring-necked pheasants (128), wild turkey (18), blue jays (96), American crows (164) and red-tail hawks (7) are examples of that variety.

To make the count possible, the volunteers walked 13.85 miles and put in 381.7 driving miles. They spent an aggregate of 68.83 party hours collecting information about the birds found in our area, according to the report.

Scientists value the data collected during the annual counts around the nation. The annual winter count provides a snapshot of bird species and numbers in various areas, helping scientists observe trends and evaluate how climate change and habitat are affecting bird populations, according to the National Audubon Society.

Along with helping science, the event is an opportunity for enjoying the outdoors and the companionship of others with an appreciation for our wildlife. This year's post-pandemic count included a welcome return to tradition, as some of volunteers gathered for a dinner at Calvary Lutheran Church to discuss the day's work.

259 house sparrows

243 dark-eyed juncos

236 black-capped chickadees

225 cedar waxwings

171 trumpeter swans

164 American crow

143 house finch

134 American goldfinch

128 ring-necked pheasants

96 blue jays

86 downy woodpeckers

83 northern cardinals

79 white-breasted nuthatch

64 Canada goose

59 European starlings

59 American tree sparrows

51 rock pigeon

41 American robins

32 horned larks

31 hairy woodpeckers

28 red-bellied woodpeckers

19 mourning doves

18 bald eagles

18 wild turkeys

17 purple finches

14 mallards

13 northern flickers

12 pileated woodpeckers

7 red-tailed hawks

7 snow bunting

5 sharp-shinned hawks

5 brown creepers

5 red-breasted nuthatches

3 red-winged blackbirds

2 belted kingfishers

2 common goldeneye

2 common grackle

2 white throated sparrows

1 hooded merganser

1 American kestrel

1 American coot

1 Eurasian collared dove

1 northern shrike

1 song sparrow

1 Harris sparrow

1 tundra swan

47 total species

2,574 total birds