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Bird Counts


Traditionally on the first Saturday of December, this historic count censuses hawks, shrikes, roadrunners, and owls along the roads of southwestern New Mexico. Contact Roland Shook for an assigned area: 575-590-4731.


The Silver City CBC covers a 15-mile diameter circle centered on the Silver City Golf Course. All levels of expertise are welcome, plus there is a need for feeder counters. To sign up and have a territory assigned,  please contact Roland Shook, 575-590-4731, several days prior to the count.

December 16, 2017 Count: Members of Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society participated in the 118th Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Thirty-five participants, including those counting avian visitors at feeders, counted birds within a 7.5-mile radius circle historically centered on the Silver City golf course. Participants reported 96 species of birds.

Before I mention particulars about this count, a word about counts, in general, is warranted. The goal of the Christmas Bird Count is to estimate populations of birds in an approximately 177 square mile circle bounded by a 47-mile circumference. No easy task when one considers that all parts of the circle are not equally accessible, have various habitats and are visited by birders of various skills. On top of this are variations in weather from year to year. The ultimate goal of the count is to compare the estimates of the bird population in one year to those of previous years with potentially different people (regarding numbers and skills), routes, weather, etc. A strategy employed is to try to reduce variation in these multitude of factors from year to year. National Audubon has specified a specific time of year (days around Christmas), counting only on count day, counting only in the defined circle, and reviewing the results by knowledgeable birders. If various counts ignore or bend these rules, then it is much harder to come up with valid conclusions.

With all the above in mind, it is possible to make some general comments and conclusions on this year’s count: Observers saw Hooded and Common mergansers, species that do not occur commonly in the count circle. A Rough-legged hawk was seen which is rare in our area. Several observers detected Eurasian Collared-doves (120) which were unknown in our area before 2002. This species was introduced to the Bahamas, spread to Florida, and then to the rest of the U.S. White-winged doves out number Mourning doves, a phenomenon reversed over the past several years. The same pattern is reflected in Lesser and American goldfinches. A first for the count were two Anna’s hummingbirds seen at Brian Dolton’s hummingbird feeder. Some higher elevation species occurred in larger numbers on the count this year including Steller’s jay, Mountian chickadee, Red-breasted nuthatch, Mountain bluebird, and Cassin’s finch. Separating ravens into species, Chihuahuan vs. Common still is a difficult field identification problem, as is the separation of meadowlark species into Eastern and Western. Both raven and meadowlark species were reported on this count. A Black and White warbler was a first for the Silver City count. Finally, an observer reported four Black-headed grosbeaks from their area. This species is a common summer bird but very rare in the winter. The NM Ornithological Society searchable database (http://www.nmbirds.org/) shows two December Silver City records for this species, one in 2001 and the other in 2006. An unusual winter sighting but one that is supported by other previous sightings.

Some observers mentioned the paucity of birds on their routes. Factors such as milder weather and lack of a good seed crop could be in play. Seed eating birds such as sparrows are often affected locally by food supplies. Mild fall temperature are implicaed in the lack of certain hawks.

We are sometimes misled that “rarer” species are more important than the common birds in our area. If the purpose of the Christmas Bird Count is to document changes throughout the years, all species are of equal importance.  – Roland Shook

2016 count had 98 species and 9,504 individual birds, which ties our second highest species count and IS our second highest individual count. A record number of out-of-season birds included, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, Wilson's Snipe, Band-tailed Pigeon, Vermilion Flycatcher, Canyon Wren, and Brown-headed Cowbird. Others we rarely get included; Inca Dove, Scaled Quail, Sandhill Crane, Western Screech-owl, Lewis's Woodpecker, American Crow, Pyrrhuloxia, and Eastern Meadowlark.


This historic Christmas Bird Count, focuses on all of the birds within a 7.5 mile radius circle approximately centered in the town of Riverside, NM. This count covers several portions of the Gila River. The private land portions require a permit, so potential participants need to contact Roland Shook several days prior to the count. 575-590-4731.

FEBRUARY 16-19, 2018

greatbackyardbirdcountBird watchers of all ages count birds to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are Participants simply watch birds at any location for at least 15 minutes on any day in a four-day time span, tally the numbers of each species they see, and report their tallies online at www.BirdCount.org. Portions of the GBBC site are also now available in Spanish at www.ContandoAves.org . Anyone anywhere in the world with Internet access can participate. Anyone visiting the GBBC website will be able to see bird observations pouring in from around the world and contribute their own tallies. Global participation will be made possible thanks to eBird, a real-time online checklist program.  The GBBC is open to anyone of any skill level and welcomes bird observations from any location, including backyards, national parks, gardens, wetlands, and urban landscapes. The four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.

MAY TBA, 2018

Migratory Bird Day celebrates one of the most important and spectacular events in the life of a migratory bird — the journey between its winter and summer homes. A mid-May date is celebrated worldwide with bird festivals, bird walks, education programs, and bird counts. 

2017 results reported 1479 species in all of North America with 633 in the Lower 48 states. All of South America reported 2497 species. Columbia the highest country count with 1781. Worldwide, 5974 species were counted.
Individual participants or teams counted as many different species of birds as they could, inside Grant County borders. Teams who participated were Jim and Jackie Blurton who tallied 56 species and the team of Karen Beckenbach, Teri Matelson, Greg Baker and Patricia Taber tallied 68 species. Individual birders who reported were Megan Ruehmann with 111 species and Brian Dolton with 117 species. Congratulations Brian for winning the highest weekend total! Taking part in the count provides a great opportunity to get outdoors to enjoy the spring weather. All are encouraged to join next year. The Big Weekend culminated with a joint picnic with the Gila Native Plant Society at the Little Walnut Picnic area — a time for sharing great food and friendships.

NOVEMBER  11 to APRIL 13, 2017 -2018

Project FeederWatch begins its 30th year harnessing the power of backyard bird watchers to track trends among winter birds. While we are all thrilled by unusual sightings and high counts, it’s the everyday observations of common birds that are so important for monitoring bird populations. Want to be a Feeder Watcher? Visit www.feederwatch.org.
The 2017–2018 FeederWatch season is Saturday, November 11 to Friday, April 13. New participants will be able to log into online data entry and set up their count site on November 1st. The last day to start a two-day count is Thursday, April 12th. The project always starts on the second Saturday of November  Online data entry will open for new participants on Tuesday, November 1st. The last day to start a two-day count is Thursday, April 6.

November TBA, 2018

The annual Crane Festival in Bosque del Apache near Socorro, NM offers a variety of events; tours, classes, hikes, horseback rides, photography classes, wildlife art show and exhibits. For information visit: www.festivalofthecranes.com.
Changes: Tyrone Ponds and Lake Roberts
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Trend In Numbers of Birds?
By Julian Lee, Compiler
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