About 25 participated in this year's Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count in Hotchkiss. The count was organized by the Black Canyon Audubon Society (BCAS).
The count recorded 64 species and 4,006 birds. Overall there was less diversity than in past years, said BCAS member Jason Beason. Some highlights include four goshawks, two merlins and 16 harriers. Of the smaller species recorded, and among the ones that were hard to catch with a lens because they are constantly flitting, include 11 Ruby-crowned kinglets, and one Blue Gray Gnatcatcher.
The gnatcatcher "is a Christmas bird," said Forest Service wildlife biologist Dennis Garrison, who spotted the bird at the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, where the only two killdeer included in the count were seen along the raceways.
In comparing this year's count to historical Hotchkiss CBC data, Beason said a record number of several species was recorded, including the goshawk. While they breed in this area, "We're lucky to find one," said Beason. "This year we got four." Northern harriers hit a record 16 sightings.
A migratory bird that once heralded spring, the American robin is now recorded year-round and its CBC numbers are steadily increasing. This year a record 441 robins were counted. That's grown from 97 in 2014, 32 in 2000, and seven in 1981. In 1977, no robins were recorded in the Hotchkiss count.
The non-native Eurasian Collared Dove hit a count high of 197. After being introduced in the 1970s in the Bahamas, several escaped from a pet shop, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They made their way to Florida by the 1980s and were first spotted in Colorado in 1996.
Bird count numbers from the BCAS are included in the Audubon Society's national CBC data, which can be accessed at audubon.org.
The annual BCAS raptor field trips in the North Fork and Montrose areas are scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 12 and 13. The trip is led by either Beason, the special monitoring projects coordinator for Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, or Jim Le Fevre, who documents raptors and their nesting activity in the area as a hobby. The trip isn't a count, but rather an opportunity to see and learn about the raptors of the area, said Beason.
The Black Canyon Audubon Society was formed in 1990 and encompasses Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, San Miguel and Ouray counties. Annual membership dues are $10 or $15 based on whether newsletters are received by email or the U.S. Postal Service. BCAS is one of 11 National Audubon Society chapters in the state. Visit blackcanyonaudubon.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.