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December is usually a well reported month because of the Christmas bird count. Two counts take place in the county with one centered on Boulder and the other on Longmont. Each count covers a circle of fifteen miles diameter. This means that the Boulder Christmas Bird Count covers a range of habitats from the mountains to the plains. It also gives a more realistic estimate of actual numbers of birds; in most months the common species are hugely under-reported. Interestingly, of the five new species for the year reported in December, only one was seen on the Christmas Count. This was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a winter species that was split some years ago from our breeding Red-naped Sapsuckers and seems to have become increasingly unusual.
The rarest bird of the month was probably a Little Gull seen on Union Reservoir on the 1st. Fortunately it stayed around for a few days allowing several birders to observe it. This is the third report of this species since the wildlife inventory began in 1979. The previous sightings were in 1994 and 1999, also on Union Reservoir. Other new species for the year were Trumpeter Swan, Ring-necked Pheasant and Lapland Longspur. Ring-necked Pheasants have become increasingly difficult to find, although they are known to breed in the county.
December 2011 was also notable for a number of summer migrants lingering in the county. It seems amazing that a Say's Phoebe was able to survive until as late as the 17th. Turkey Vultures were observed in three separate sightings. Common Grackles were obviously wintering at a feedlot on Valmont. Other seasonally unusual sighting included a Williamson's Sapsucker and a Hermit Thrush. It should also be mentioned that Boulder County is unusual in having a wintering population of Double-crested Cormorants and Black-crowned Night Herons sustained by the (relatively) warm water of Valmont Reservoir.
Other good sightings for the month included Virginia Rail, Barn Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl and Golden-crowned Sparrow. Altogether December 2011 recorded 127 bird species, of which 112 species were reported on the Boulder Christmas Bird Count. Although this does not come close to the whopping 138 bird species reported in December 2010, this is actually the second highest total recorded for December. TOP
|Greater White-fronted Goose||11,18||24,BCBC||2|
|Great Blue Heron||15,17,18||23,31,32,BCBC||25|
|Black-crowned Night Heron||18||BCBC||6|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull||25||24||1||LHa|
|Northern Saw-whet Owl||18||BCBC||1|
|American Tree Sparrow||3,13,18||23,31,32,35,50,BCBC||65|
|Black-tailed Prairie Dog||Present|
|Chickaree or Pine Squirrel||18||37||2||SJ|