Results of Jo Daviess County’s Christmas Bird Count
On Dec. 17th, twenty four members of the Eagle Nature Foundation and the Conservation Guardians of Northwest Illinois spent 29.5 hours and drove 289 miles throughout part of Jo Daviess County to count 3577 birds of 44 different species as they participated in National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This annual count in Jo Daviess County was started in 1965 by Terrence Ingram, who has been the compiler for this count ever since. The counters attempted to count all of the birds in a circle that is 15 miles in diameter and centered at Schapville, IL.
This is the 114th annual count that has been conducted by the National Audubon Society. Each year the National Audubon Society combines the results of this local count with other local bird counts that are conducted across the continent during the three weeks from Dec. 14 to the 5th of January. The data collected by CBC participants over the last century or more have become one of only two large pools of information informing ornithologists and conservation biologists how the birds of the Americas are faring over time. This local count reveals some of the changes in the bird life and the environment that have been occurring in Jo Daviess County.
This count was started by Mr. Ingram before Apple Canyon Lake or the Galena Territory were even in existence. At that time the count basically covered farms, pastures and croplands with no lakes or housing developments. Now there are lakes and two big housing developments that have replaced many of the farms and fields. So the natural environment has definitely been changed and the bird life has changed as well.
For example, this year’s count revealed a record number of bluebirds with 60 being seen, which may be a direct result of the many bluebird houses which the Guardians put up and monitor each year. This was at the same time that no birds of another member of the same family, the robin, were seen. This year was in definite contrast to the 826 robins having been seen in 1981. Another bird which was not seen this year was the pheasant. Even though no pheasants were seen this year, 28 had been seen in 2004 and pheasants have been seen for 28 years of the count.
When this count was first started almost every farm had open wire corncribs for the storage of the harvested corn. Many times a red-headed woodpecker could be seen feeding on this stored corn. In 1981 seventeen red-headed woodpeckers were counted whereas this year only one was seen.
Other birds that were down in numbers include: the cardinal (which also used the corn cribs), with 54 seen, while 640 of them had been counted in 1968; the snow bunting, with only one being seen, while 142 had been seen in 2010; the tree sparrow, with 27 being seen while 1083 had been counted in 1981; the mourning dove, with 87 being seen, when 427 had been seen in 2004; the red-tailed hawk, with 49 being seen, while 184 had been seen in 1995; and the starling, with 412 being seen, while 1472 had been seen in 1996.
Other species had record numbers with 60 tufted Titmice being counted and 50 Lapland Longspurs being counted. Also this year two new species to this local count were sighted; the Carolina Wren, and the Pine Grosbeak. So as the environment is changing, the bird life that has to live in that environment is changing.
Mr. Ingram has for years used the results of this count to predict what the weather for the rest of the winter will be. With few summer bird species being seen, combined with the increase of the northern bird species that were found, he is predicting that this is going to be a harsh winter and perhaps even a long one.