Put-in-Bay Bird Count-Sandhill cranes, eight bald eagles in one place, and a tufted titmouse! You never know
what you will get on the Audubon Christmas Bird Count at the Lake Erie Islands Circle! This year the Bird Count was held on December 15, 2013. We had ice cover and a heavy snow the day before. Overnight some pockets of open water developed around the eastern point of South Bass and along the east side, so there were large movements of waterfowl in those areas. It was a relatively quiet day in the woods due to the recent snowfall, cold temps and increasing winds.
Feeder watchers were very important as they were the only busy spots with the weather. We were able to see 44 species on South Bass with another sixteen that showed up during our count week. Counters were also busy on Pelee, Kelleys and Middle Bass Island too. Ducks were on the move that day with the changing weather conditions. Highlights for the count were the incredible numbers of both Red-breasted (3,267 on South Bass) and common mergansers (1,865), as well as common goldeneyes (1,865) that were moving that morning around the island. Tom Bartlett called us that morning from Kelleys to tell us they were moving our way! Although we all shared some species in common, there were notable differences. At Kelleys, there were large numbers of greater and lesser scaup which were noticeably absent here.
On South Bass, our bird count saw 323 tundra swans present that day in the open water that extended from the Scheeff East Point Preserve all down the east side of the airport. They love this shallow water habitat for the submerged aquatic vegetation, especially
wild celery! The best feeder bird was a tufted titmouse at Kit Knaser’s feeder, which is very unusual for the Bass Islands. Seven counters and ten feeder watchers on Pelee compiled 48 species with the biggest surprise being 23 sandhill cranes! They also saw ring-necked pheasants and an eastern towhee absent from the other islands. Tom Bartlett, Tom Beinlin and Sandy Tkach braved
the cold at Kelleys and came up with 64 different species for the day. They saw eight bald eagles feeding together at one time! Craig Reiker intended to count on North Bass but could not land there due to deep snow. He joined the group at Kelleys instead and was able to see horned larks pass overhead while waiting. Tom was up early and later trying for owls which turned up a saw-whet owl in addition to the great-horned and screech owls.
Large flocks of European Starlings were found on all three islands! On South Bass, Lisa Brohl, Susan Harrington, Karen Wilhelm, Bridget Wise and John Dodge surveyed the shorelines and woods by car and on foot throughout the day to count birds. Seventeen people watched their feeders for a combined total of 43.5 hours! Thanks to Paul Ladd and Gay Pippert, David and Jessie Green Hill, Mary Ann McCann, Sue Amrine with her grandchildren Ella and Lukas Kostura, Bridget Wise and John Dodge, Angie Martens, Kit Knaser, Mary Wells, Michelle Heineman, John Ladd, Bob Glauser, Russ Brohl, Sarah Toole, Linda Mahoney, Susan Harrington, Louis Heineman and Jeanette Luecke!
We appreciate landowners cooperation with access that day! On Middle Bass Island, Gloria Wolf watched her feeder for us and saw the resident Bald Eagles at Kuehnle State Wildlife Area the next day. We were unable to get to Green Island because of ice cover this year but are grateful to the Ohio Division of Wildlife for issuing the permit and to John Dodge for being on standby.