CHRISTMAS COUNT RESUME by Paul Nimmons, Compil
An all-time high number of birders (99) saw the second
ever seen on the Houston Christmas Count.
highest number of species (171)
Almost every area equaled or exceeded its species totals of last year. The inland .
areas (1-4) did particularly well compared to last year. Nine species were seen exclusively in these areas: wood duck, sharp-shinned hawk, vermilion flycatcher, brown
creeper, wood thrush, eastern bluebird (30), pine warbler, American redstart, LeConte'?
sparrow (22). -Other species were seen primarily in these areas: anhinga, Canada goose
Cooper's hawk, pileated woodpecker, downy woodpecker, short-billed marsh wren, golden-
crowned kinglet, Sprague's pipit, common yellowthroat, Bullock's oriole, black-headed
grosbeak, rufous-sided towhee, dark-eyed junco, chipping sparrow, Henslow's sparrow,
and swamp sparrow. Almost 5500 or the 8800 snow geese were seen in these four areas
(next year they will see a Ross' goose!).
These lists show how important the land-locked areas are to the count. It is hard to
cover an inland area - particularly walking through a sparrow field - with little opportunity to sit and peer through a spotting scope and little hope of building the
largest area list. The leaders and participants in these areas deserve extra credit
and a gold star.
This does not mean the other areas should be overlooked. In all II areas thirty-
three species (commonly called "exclusives") were seen in no more than one area.
Seven species were sighted which had not been seen on any of the five preceding
counts (1970- 1974, the only years checked): white-faced ibis, sandhill crane, pectoral sandpiper, inca dove, Anna's hummingbird (certainly the best bird of the count-
seen by Linda Snyder at her feeder), ;tern kingbird, and vermilion flycatcher. The
following six birds had only been seen once in the preceding five years: American
bittern, king rail, Virginia rail, Philadelphia vireo, American redstart and Bullock's
We saw every species that can reasonably be expected except gull-billed tern, black
skimmer, rufous hummingbird, red-headed woodpecker (a sad loss), hairy woodpecker and
black & white warbler. Hopefully we will pick these up again next year together with
increased numbers of wood ducks and roseate spoonbills.
Sixty-five species were seen in their highest numbers for the six Christmas counts
from 1970 - 1975: common loon, red-throated loon, horned grebe, eared grebe, oliva-
ce ous cormorant, green heron, cattle egret (its rise over a six-year period has been
30, 36, 91, 105, 174, 280), yellow-crowned night heron (previous high was 3), Canada
goose, snow goose (previous high was 3792), blue goose, mottled duck (previously 62),
gadwaI I, pintail (previously 1112), American wigeon (previously 127), shoveler, lesser scaup, common goldeneye (doubled previous high), bufflehead, ruddy duck (more
than double), turkey vulture, Cooper's hawk, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, king
rail, clapper rail (almost double), common gallinule, American coot.(previously 226)
killdeer, black-bellied plover, woodcock, spotted sandpiper (previously 26), willet
(double), least sandpiper (seventupled), American avocet (quadrupled), laughing gull,
Bonaparte's gull, royal tern, groove-billed ani, screech owl (triped), belted kingfisher, pileated woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-belled sapsucker, blue
jay, common crow (double), Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, house wren, wood
thrush, blue-gray gnatcatcher, ruby-crowned kinglet, water pipit, cedar waxwing, loggerhead shrike, solitary vireo, Philadelphia vireo, orange-crowned warbler, myrtle
warbler, meadowlark, Bullock's oriole, great-tailed grackle (previously 274), common
grackle (previously 5668), black-headed grosbeak, savannah sparrow, LeConte's sparrow,
(almost quadrupled), Henslow's sparrow, chipping sparrow and swamp sparrow.
The reason for the wealth of species and high totals is the high number of participants, many of whom are excellent field identifiers, allowing complete coverage of the
count circle. Hopefully, we wiI I all remember this when we wake up in a 38° drizzle
on Christmas count morning 1976!