by Lisa Bate and Jami Belt

Glacier Christmas Bird Count Photo Credit: Jake Bramante
Glacier Christmas Bird Count 2015 Photo Credit: Jake Bramante

On December 20, 2015, 23 observers on 11 field routes and one feeder site (West Glacier) recorded 406 birds of 33 species. This count marked the 42nd Glacier National Park Christmas Bird Count (CBC) since 1973, contributing to the 116th year of the National Audubon Society’s CBC. The main comment we heard from returning observers this year was, “it was SO quiet”, and it really was with few forest birds detected. This may have been a result of the 12 inches of unexpected snow that fell through the night cushioning sounds from even a short distance away.  The new snow, however, made for a magical outing in a winter wonderland with moderate temperatures and calm winds.

The resident Black-capped Chickadee was the most commonly detected species on count day with 60 individuals recorded. Waterfowl species were the next numerous with counts of 53 Canada Geese, 50 Common Goldeneyes, and 49 Mallards. No swans were detected. An unusual Common Loon was observed on count day and count week (3 days before and 3 days after count day) on Lake McDonald. No additional species were observed during count week this year.

We had new record highs for two species in 2015. Four Belted Kingfishers and two Black-backed Woodpeckers were detected, up from a count of three and one, respectively. The feeder count gave us four additional species: Northern Pygmy Owl, Northern Flicker, Dark-eyed Junco, and Song Sparrow.

Thanks to all participants for contributing their expertise, time, and energy for this annual event.  Your efforts are invaluable in tracking long-term changes in species abundance and diversity in Glacier during the early winter season!  Enjoy the photos of the Winter Wonderland from Glacier’s 42nd Christmas Bird Count.