Simply, it was an amazing year statistically for the Bozeman count. Previously the high total for species was 59, which had been reached four times in the past five years. I was wondering when we might ever reach 60 species. To increase the total species from 59 to 70 in a single count, with a 74 year data set, is incredible.
New to the count this year were a single Pied-billed Grebe and a count week Ring-necked Duck. Birds that were seen, that had only been recorded one time before included: Canvasback (count week), Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Northern Saw-whet Owl (last recorded in 1915), and a Spotted Towhee.
The single biggest factor for the increased species total, has been the expansion of the gravel pits east of Belgrade, along Interstate 90. Where the Bozeman circle typically had no open still water, the deepening of the pits has apparently reached the water table, which seems to be spring fed, allowing open water to persist into January. Also the mining activity has moved further to the east, so the birds have a quiet place to linger that is not accessible to the public.
Other factors in the high species total were the winter finch irruption, finding several rarities, good circle coverage, and of course, luck.
Overall, there were record high counts for 23 species (including 6 species of raptors and both crossbill species), with several more species just missing new high counts. Some of the notable increases in high counts were Bald Eagle (50 to 69), Rough-legged Hawk (77 to 106), Eurasian Collared-Dove ( 231 to 643), Brown Creeper (15 to 22), Red Crossbill ( 110 to 269), White-winged Crossbill (33 to 64). The total of individual birds was also a new high total, with the redpoll invasion being a major contributor. Perhaps again this year, the Bozeman circle will lead the way with the most magpies of all the counts.
Thank you to all of the participants on the 74rd Bozeman Christmas Bird count! Hopefully everyone had fun helping with the count and enjoyed seeing some terrific birds on a beautiful day.
Happy New Year.